Sunday, February 10, 2008

Heavenly Beach Days

I can't help thinking there will be beaches in heaven. Beaches are just so heavenly! Everyone there is so happy, peaceful and relaxed. Everything there is so beautiful!

It is probably obvious that I went to the beach recently. It was a perfect winter Saturday, temps in the low 80s, sun streaming from a nearly cloudless sky. First I enjoyed the long, scenic drive with my husband, sunroof open and conversation flowing. We chose Lover's Key and after parking the car and walking a bit, we took a tram the rest of the way to the beach. It was a bit of a blow to discover that the lovely, shady Australian pines that used to make this beach so beautiful (and did I mention shady?) are gone, victims of the 2004 hurricanes. When we were younger, it wouldn't have mattered, but we simply can't take the sun like we used to. I used to be a major sun bunny, but now certain medications make me burn easily, and we both used to spend our time swimming, sunbathing or walking anyway, but today we are content to park ourselves in a chair for the duration. Turned out there was a fellow renting large beach umbrellas, so the problem was quickly solved. There was plenty to see.

First we enjoyed a pair of dolphins making their leisurely way parallel to the shore. Pelicans dove for fish, and seagulls swept down the beach, settling in large groups periodically, on shore or out along a sandbar. There were catamarans sailing along, and large boats coming in as close as they could, then unloading people on to smaller boats to come to shore, or staying on board and fishing not far out. Some brave souls were kayaking, and we could see parasailers in the distance. Suddenly off to the left, we spotted Wave Runners, and they just kept coming. We counted 18 in a row, and decided it must be a club, like a motorcycle club. They all made their way past us and down the Gulf to our right.

The people-watching was entertaining as well. There were young couples with adorable toddlers, brave little things who seemed to consider the huge Gulf their personal wading pools. One tiny girl laughed every time a wave hit her, and kept trying to coax her daddy to take her out further. One enterprising young father dug a "baby pit" and set his little toddler in it right at the edge of the surf, where she could play happily in her sand pen. There were folks looking for shells, strolling, sunbathing, swimming, eating, relaxing and even sleeping. Breathing in the salt air, basking in the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the day, I could feel the tension draining out of my body, leaving me limp as a jellyfish. Meanwhile, the surf pounded noisily against the shore and the sun climbed higher in the sky. I finally made my way to the water, shocked and refreshed by the chill of it against my sunwarmed legs. The time passed in the strange way it always does at the beach, quickly, while seeming to stand still. The only thing that changes is the position of the sun.

Back in the car, we weren't quite ready to leave, so we took a slow drive down the main strip. It was bumper to bumper, crawling along through crowds of strolling people, inching behind people-watching people in no hurry to actually go anywhere. It gave us plenty of time to examine the beach cottages with their parking spots underneath and rooftop decks, sometimes three stories up. Finally, after a very long, full, perfect day, we headed home, sleepy from sun, sand, wind and wave, already planning our next visit.

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