My first sensation is the smell. Every time. The scent of salt tickles my nose before I’m even close enough to hear the rhythmic pulse of waves meeting the shoreline. Then the noise grows louder as I move closer, walking down the boardwalk that crosses over the rise of the dunes. Suddenly, a gust of breeze whips my hair across my face or knocks the hat off my head. And I don’t care. This is my happy place.
My eyes sweep the beach, taking in the expanse of white sand, foaming surf, dark emerald water, and brilliant blue sky. Home. Absorbing the entire scene before me, I then allow my eyes to focus on the individual details that make up that whole. A boat far out near the horizon, wispy clouds hanging low over the water, white caps breaking against the sand, sea birds circling and diving into the churning waves.
My bare feet sink into warm white sand as I begin my trek toward the water. I want to rush, but I also want to linger and savor every step. As I get closer to the water’s edge, I can feel, or at least I imagine I feel, my heart rate and my breathing synchronize with the waves.
Sometimes the urge to walk spurs me ahead, and I choose a direction. I pad along the strip of hard-packed sand where my passage is marked by footprints pressed into the damp sand, then I weave to meet the lapping water that wets my feet and erases all trace that I’ve been here.
Watching the strip of sand before me or the unending waves beside me, it’s easy to lose myself. Have I walked ten minutes, or two hours? Have I traveled a half mile or five? It doesn’t matter. I’m alive.
Other times, I am drawn to sit instead of walk. On those days, I spread my blanket and sit on the beach, out of reach of the rising tide. Around me, I watch tiny crabs scurry and disappear into holes in the sand. Gulls circle above, floating on the currents. Occasionally, dolphins frolic in the water nearby.
In the summer, the warmth that has been baked deep into the sand seeps into me from below, while the sun above me warms my skin. When the sun is shining, I bask in its light, even as its heat pulls moisture from my body. Long after the sun has set, the sand shares its stored warmth.
In the winter, the only thing missing is the heat. The sand, the waves, the birds all await me, offering me their companionship.
Sometimes, the beach is crowded with visitors. But I don’t let that bother me. Staring out at the waves is hypnotic, and it isn’t hard to block out anything I wish to ignore. And besides, a less crowded stretch of sand is usually just a short walk away.
If I ever want to meditate, it’s the sea that I allow to fill my mind. The endlessness, the rhythm, the peace.
There is never a rush at the beach. Time passes with no trace. I sleep when I get drowsy and rise when I awaken. I eat when I am hungry, giving no thought to the name of the meal or its appointed hour. It’s here at the beach that I get as close as possible to my natural state of functioning.
Stress has no place here at the beach. Worries and concerns are somehow left behind, or at least diminished. It is at the beach that I can completely relax. During extended stays, the need for things like blood pressure, heart, and anti-anxiety medications diminishes. I’m not a doctor and can only speak for myself, of course. But for me, time at the beach is therapeutic and I always feel better and am more ‘well’ when I am here.
I have salt and sand in my veins. The beach is truly my favorite place, the place that I feel most at home.