Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A beach

My favorite beach is one I used to go to when I was a kid. Not a traditional sandy expanse, this beach was far enough off the beaten path that it was generally deserted – an ideal location for my imaginary world to thrive.

To get to the beach I would walk down a blackberry lined sandy road where the lapping of waves and calling of seabirds would reach my ears long before they came into view. Once I reached the end of the road a small path was cut into the broom and blackberries. I would navigate this steep path down a short cliff. From there, I could see the undulating surface of the sea extending in all directions until it was broken by a blue-toned landscape a long distance off. Huge driftwood pieces, tossed ashore by winter storms, now blocked the path. I remember balancing along these logs until I reached a field of tiny stones. Beyond the stones was my favorite part: a wide band of sandstone formations. Unless it was the lowest of low tides, beyond the sandstone lapped the waves. When there was an extreme low tide, a new landscape of seaweed covered rocks and tide pools was exposed.

The sea-worn sandstone captured my imagination the most. Each shape could be an fantastical dimpled animal large enough to sit on and I could ride the dusty yellow beast with sandpaper textured skin anywhere my imagination could devise. Or the shapes could be mushroom formations rising up from a pool of lava, forcing me to leap between each one to get to the other side. Or the shapes could be worn down fortifications of an ancient castle, giving me a place to hide from my enemies. Some shapes had dimpled pickets that held treasures like tiny shells and stones. In some places shallow pools that were warm enough to wade in separated the shapes. These pools would be home to seaweeds, bullheads (sculpins), crabs and snails; the pools that only existed at low tide housed anemones and starfish.

The maze of rough sandstone shapes could entertain me for hours – and held different objects to discover every time I was there. Some days abandoned fishing floats would wash up, other days there would be uniquely shaped driftwood that could be imagined as tridents, swords or crutches. Always there would be seabirds watching from a safe distance and cackling amongst themselves.

I've never seen another beach with the same type of sandstone formations as the one from my childhood. That childhood beach actually exists, but I haven't been there for years. I've gone back to other places that held magic for me as a child, but now they are just places, no longer manifestations of my imagination. So I won't physically visit that beach of my childhood, instead I'll just visit the memories.

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