I did not take my wet suit to California. I had no intention of swimming. The Pacific is too cold. The closest I got last week was wading the surf at low tide on the beach at Carlsbad.
But as any beach lover knows it is not so much the water that attracts. Sometimes it’s just sunning or getting a tan. Others like to sleep on the beach with the roar of the surf putting them deep into nada land.
For me, it is strolling in the wet sand with someone. Talking, thinking, laughing, seeing. There’s something about being at the beach that brings out the best in me. I feel more communal, more at peace with this strange world I have been thrust into.
The beach also spurs my creative side. Like I see stuff in the sand I never noticed before. I think of things to talk about I never talked about before. If I decide to write my big book someday I would try it first at some beach. Yes, it has dawned on me that I just might just stroll the beaches and never put down a single word at all.
I don’t know where the beach at Carlsbad ranks in the world for my kind of enjoyment but it’s up there, high. Maybe not as high as the little strip of sand in the cove near Turtle Bay on North Shore, Oahu. But certainly high as far as high-traffic beaches go.
Nebra and I walked the beach one day to the north, up to Oceanside and back. Then the next day, we strolled south a half mile to a pile of black rocks at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
On our walks, I saw a new bird for my life list. It’s just that I’m not sure if it was a Whimbrel or a Bristle-Thighed Curlew. They look a lot alike. It was a stilt, had those long legs and an even longer beak that curved downward.
I marveled at the patterns in the dark wet sand left by kelp and rolling stones. And of the way kelp was tossed by the waves and left to lay.
We passed a flock of gulls and terns standing like sentinels on the beach, their eyes cast intently out to sea. As if waiting on something. It was low tide. I like to imagine these birds know the precise moment when the tide starts to come in and at that moment find optimal feeding in the ocean. A small boy ran through them and they scattered for a few moments before returning to that same spot. Maybe each bird to the exact same spot it commanded before.
A mechanized parasailer passed overhead with a bright sail. I did not hear the motor until the wind was just right. I thought whoever it was looked ridiculous in that little seat high in the sky.
There was man asleep higher up on dry sand. I shot a photo of him, thinking I am invading his privacy. That’s why I would never make a good news photographer.
Several children inched close to the water to build “sand castles” for the first time. I knew it was their first castles because they did not seem to know the ocean would soon wash them away.
I don’t know why but the most exhilarating sight I saw all day was a formation of seven pelicans flying just above. They were heading south in a “V”. The pelican is a strange-looking bird. Some may even say it is ugly. But when they are flying, particularly in formation, it a a sight to see. Like the Blue Angels on the Fourth of July.
I wonder what would happen to the formation if one bird was missing. Perhaps injured or killed. Would the spot be filled by another? Or would the formation have an empty slot?
“Next pelican up,” I said to Nebra. We laughed and walked on but we would say that phrase again and again until we left for our red-state home in Arizona.
See, you can enjoy the beach without really even touching the water.