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Copyright 2009-2010 by
Mary Brotherton
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Inside my Brain

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Sunday, February 09, 2003

7 Became 12

The beach is 7 miles from my house, but "the" beach goes on and on, the entire stretch of the eastern coast of the USA is "the beach", or the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean. Yesterday, I missed my turn, and rather than turning around to go to the beach with free parking, I decided to go to Indialantic and pay for the privilege of parking near the shore. I'm glad I did! As soon as I arrived, I noticed a huge blue balloon hovering nearby. I wasn't certain if I was seeing a balloon, a parasail, or some sophisticated kite. Well, that blue balloon turned out to be the semi-spherical shape of a wind surfer's sail. As I walked onto the boardwalk that linked the parking lot to the white sanded beach, I saw a young man in a wet suit, pulling on strings which connected to that sail. I honestly thought he was flying a kite, and then I saw about half a dozen of his friends who were still out on the water. I later learned that most wind surfers prefer the river to the ocean, but for some reason, these daredevils decided to brave not only the winds and tides, but the rip currents as well. One guy was at least two miles out, and I could tell from the expression on the face of the one with the blue sail that he was a bit more than a little concerned for his partner. I don't think he needed to be, because before long, the fellow who was furthest from shore was zig-zagging his way closer inland. I would be lying if I said that I was not slack-jawed with wonderment at the beauty before me. I saw windsails of nearly every color. I've already mentioned the blue, which was deeper than any sapphire. The adreneline junkie who had allowed the wind to take him into deep water was holding tightly to a banana yellow sail, and another's yellow thrill was the deep, rich color of daffodils. A fourth was tethered to a lime green sail, and another's was multi-colored and banded like a rainbow, yet his colors were bold and there was nothing pastel about his actions on the water. The last fellow was suspended from a sail that was fire engine red. So, I had quite a visual feast waiting for me. I stood on the boardwalk for a few minutes and watched as these young men glided along the water, their feet attached to small boards which had been waxed and polished to make them faster than butter melting on the dashboard of a locked car stalled on an Arizona highway in July. For a while, the surfers seemed content to just glide along, like beginning skateboarders, but the wind picked up enough to make me zip my jacket and the show was underway! I saw men on boards skimming across waves as if they were on a smooth, solid surface. I saw others pull on their sails which made them gather more or less air, as required to do the tricks they'd obviously practiced before. Their friend on shore stopped packing his sail to watch too. One young man became airborne and his sail was his lifeline. I tried not to stare, since my mother taught me that it was impolite to do so; but stare I did, as the airborne one started doing flips and somersaults on the water. I marveled at their need for adreneline and remembered when, I too, craved that as my stimulant. Remembering that my primary reason for coming to the beach was to walk and get my heart rate accelerated, I decided to race walk and watch as I went to the next boardwalk, a few hundred feet away. I climbed the boardwalk, and trotted down the sidewalk, to retrace my steps and get another view of the surfers.

I drove an extra 5 miles and had to put a quarter in the meter, but it was well worth my effort and expense. I think I'd like to explore all the different beach accesses for a while, because I know that not only are the names different, but the things that draw people to certain areas differ as well. Surfers will only go where the waves are perfect. Beachcombers will find the areas with more shells. Lovers will seek out places where solitude and park benches are found. Families will search for beaches with bathroom facilities, and sun worshippers will never attend a shaded beach.

So? What exactly do I long for in a beach? I want wet sand that is firm to walk fast on, and dry sand that flirts with my toes. I want to see the shells and select a single souvenir from among them. I want free parking. I want a friendly face that will smile back at my greeting, yet not want to engage me in conversation as I meditate. I want a populated shoreline, that is not crowded with blanket and toddlers that I have to circumvent. I want to feel the surf spray across my face, and smell the salt in the air. I want to feel a balmy breeze press against my back to urge me to continue walking, and just enough sunshine to tingle my skin without burning it. I want to hear the birds overhead, and see them scatter as I approach. I want to know that the fishermen I see are catching mercury-free fish, and that their wives appreciate thier faithful return home.