My footprints in the sand always lead me back to me.
Photo taken September 2015 at Osborne Avenue Beach in Bay Head, NJ.
The beach. I absolutely love the beach, and I know how fortunate I am to live in a place where the beach is one mile from my house.
However, I hate going to the beach. I bet you were surprised to read that! Let me explain…
I’m not someone who can sit on the beach for hours doing nothing. Lying on the beach surrounded by others in the hot sun listening to music I don’t like and ignorant conversation all day…no, that’s not for me. Plus, my brain cannot sit and do nothing either. I’ve had friends day, “But what about reading? You like to read, so why don’t you read at the beach?” Again, my brain isn’t wired like that. If I try to read at the beach, I become easily distracted with what’s going on around me. I turn into an observer, watching everything…even if there’s no people and I’m by myself, I just cannot concentrate on reading when I am at the beach. I’d rather watch the waves crash, or the gulls fly.
However, I like heading up to the beach in the mornings before the crowds and badge checkers to sit for a few minutes, to walk in search of a shell, or to write a bit in my journal (and even then, I cannot write too much because I’m distracted). I usually last about an hour or two at most, then I’ll go home to begin my day as the crowds arrive. Same for after hours…a quick walk on the beach before dinner is all I need to recharge and relax. My favorite time to go to the beach, believe it or not, is in September. Those who live in NJ I am sure will agree. September is the best beach weather month, and even though I’m back at work, I’ll go up for a few minutes before I head to school, until sunrise is too late. It’s the best way to start the day.
The beach is my therapist. It understands me, advises me, comforts me, and accepts me. It is filled with mystery. Time stops when I simply get lost while walking on the beach by myself. The ocean is strong, and at times, can be scary, but it always comes back to its calm.
The salt water is in my veins and in my soul, and the sand is my blanket of comfort.
Yeah, I love the beach.
I have been thoroughly enjoying summer and everything it has to offer. Last week was a whirlwind of activity, seeing many new places and making memories with my friends and family. After the busy week, I was longing for some solace, so I decided to watch the sunrise up at the beach.
On Sunday, August 2, 2015, I set my alarm for 5:10 am. After quickly getting ready, I was at one of my favorite spots, Osborne Avenue Beach in Bay Head, NJ, by 5:30 am. Sunrise wasn’t until 5:55 am, but I didn’t want to miss twilight’s opening act.
I walked down the platform to the sand, sat on one of the bulkheads, and took it all in. The ever changing colors of the sky reflected in the ocean, on the homes, and on the sand. At least 20 underwing moths flew in from over the ocean one at a time, many of which landed right on me.
Like a little kid, I get excited when the sun is approaching the horizon, and as it did, I was shouting “Here it comes!” in my head. Two surfers entered the water right before the sun broke through, which made for some wonderful photos and mental memories.
There it was, the sun, and the start of another day here on Earth. I took a deep breath and said, “Thank you for this day.”
As the sun’s height grew, I got up and began walking south in search of a sea shell or a piece of sea glass to remember my morning. Whenever I go to the beach, I find a shell, write the date and beach location on it, and put it in my “nature’s memories” jar (note: my jar used to be known as my “shell memory jar,” but if I go to a non-beachy location, I’ve started doing the same thing with stones).
The ocean water was very warm and comfortable, and I walked along the edge where the wash surged onto the beach, letting my feet enjoy the remnants of the salt water waves. The air was permeated with that wonderful salt-air scent, and I wish I could bottle up that smell, or make a candle with that exact scent because there’s nothing else in the world like it. I drank it in, taking more than a few, deep breaths.
I paused for a moment and looked to the southeast horizon, thinking of those two Florida teens, Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, who have been missing at sea since July 24, and hoped that they are still out there, alive and well, just waiting to be found. I said a quiet prayer for their safe return, and continued walking.
There weren’t many shells on the beach, even at the highest point on the sand where the overnight tide had reached. No shells and no sea glass, just a few pebbles and sand crabs. More underwing moths made their way landward, and again, a few landed right on me. I don’t know where they came from, but my husband later told me he also had them on the boat when fishing Friday and Sunday.
After walking two blocks, I still did not have a souvenir.
Something finally caught my eye, something tumbling in the waves, and at first I thought it was a piece of red brick. It is nothing new to find bricks, duct work, or pieces of shingle here and there, as parts of homes STILL wash up as a result of Superstorm Sandy, which was almost 3 years ago. However, as I approached the item, I could see clearly that wasn’t a piece of brick.
I bent down to pick it up. It was shaped like an arrowhead or a shield, about one inch long and 1/2 an inch wide, with no jagged edges. The one side was very smooth, and when I turned it over, I gasped and was filled with what I can only describe as awe. On the back was a cross, or what to me looked like a cross. I held it tightly in my hand, overcome for a moment with emotion.
After posting a photo of what I found, someone commented that it was nothing more than a piece of tile, the back of it beveled so that the mortal will stick better (hence the cross shape), and obviously another piece of one of Sandy’s house victims.
However, I see it much differently.
It is my tile cross. My gift from the sea.
And the message that immediately came to mind when I picked up and grasped my tile cross for the first time was this: Have Faith.
Anybody can find a shell. Anybody can find a piece of sea glass.
But I found my tile cross. My gift from the sea.
That’s pretty profound.