My recent summer holiday has come and gone. I have spent it having coffee with old friends and enjoying many shared meals. But mostly my holiday consisted of seeking out my favourite places to swim on the island.
There is a science to choosing the right beach for the right day. You must factor in all the environmental elements. Where is the wind blowing from? Where is the tide at? Will the best tides coincide with the dinner hour and should we pack a bag of salt and vinegar chips, sour apples as big as the kids heads and hunks of cheese?
Some beaches are best at low tide, say, if it is overcast and you want to hunt for moon snails and sand dollars. Some beaches are best at high tide, at the end of the day, frigid water creeping over hot rocks to take the edge off that first dive under.
This fat lady on the beach has a favourite place that she likes to get to, hunker down and make a day of it. Just like when I was growing up in Manitoba. We would all pile into my Zeida’s station wagon that had a roll down back window. Our little heads peered out the back as we were jostled around between giant watermelons with seeds and cooked bowls of fried chicken that my baba made up the night before. After a couple of hours, we jumped out hungry and eager for a day at Winnipeg Beach. We gobbled our lunch standing up barefoot on the grass, looking longingly at the lake. Our Russian baba made us wait an excruciating half hour before we were allowed to jump those tiny 1 foot waves in case we got a cramp. The day always ended too soon. I always had sun burn and went to bed with giant white slabs of Noxema on my bony shoulders and sand in uncomfortable places.
If anyone goes to the beach with me now, it is like I am that same child. Unwilling to leave at the end of the day. I love the ritual of cracking open a book, as I lay on my light blue towel, skin damp from a long leisurely swim through the water. The kids are digging in the sand like puppies and I will stay as long as they like ( or try to anyways). I like to know that we can linger as long as we want, until the sun has gone past the trees and can’t dry our swimsuits anymore.
I have had the same paperback in my beach bag for years and I rarely tire of it. It is a book of short stories. I just open any page and enjoy the words. I don’t care if I have read it ten times or forget that I read it last year, (lucky!). It has loose pages and I bought it for one dollar five years ago.But alas this time round, I didn’t have my regular beach bag. I had to have a replacement. I stumbled upon an old copy of the Unbearable Lightness of Being. I had read it so long ago, that it was like a new novel to me.I lay on the sand, pretending I am the beautiful artist Sabina, with my head propped against a log faintly smelling like diesel oil.
This beach is my meditation. It brings me back to those long childhood days of summer. And I realize that by coming here for years, I have created new beach memories for my own family.
I may be the fat lady on the beach, but here at this beach, on this stretch of sand, I am light.