Son of the Beach
In my extensive life experience—and I am totally kidding when I say that, or rather write that—I have encountered only two geographical areas… climates… whatever… where I felt with both body and soul that I truly belonged.
The first was in the desert, more specifically in the desert of the American southwest. I first visited New Mexico and Arizona as a teenager on one of those cross-country group tours for well-to-do teens… or should I say, teens with parents who were well-to-do. And I was fortunate enough to be among them, if only for a short while.
Although I can’t explain it, something about the desert clime rang true and tapped into something I had never experienced before: my spirit. Sure, there was plenty of heat, but it was a dry heat, not the humid and wet diaper of North Carolina weather I was accustomed to. And I saw my share of dangerous desert creatures, to be sure. There were scorpions I had to run out of my tent while camping on a later cross-country trip, this one with a small group of friends. And trust me when I say that from that point forward, we always checked our tents, shoes, bags and other items thoroughly, knowing our poisonous little friends could be lurking almost anywhere.
There was another time when I was participating in a summer work camp with my church youth group. We joined dozens of other groups from churches around the nation and converged on a high school in western New Mexico. There we staged a huge effort to help the poor people of the surrounding communities with everything from installing a chimney and chopping wood to painting and reinforcing adobe brick around ovens. On the first day, we were assigned to teams that in most cases included only random people from other churches—to me it seemed intentional, meant to foster fellowship whether you liked it or not. But it was fun, I give it that.
Each morning, we would meet our team, truck and driver to be transported to our work site, which was way out in the desert. We would load up our supplies, double-check our water supply, package our lunches and get to work. The trucks dropped us off in the morning and picked us up in the late afternoon. Aside from that, there was no other contact.
I would soon learn that when it came to this “drop-off-pick-up” policy, some fine tuning may have been needed—by which I mean leaving a walkie-talkie or some other means of communication. Sadly, this was long before the age of cell phones and other technological lifesavers, back when the only computer you had available was the meaty one between your ears. And on this particular day, I was going to need it.
Once the truck was long gone and we were completely on our own, someone on my team realized we were missing some key components for today’s job of putting in a chimney. Since there was no way of contacting “base camp”—and since on this day, our site had been moved at the last minute, bringing us nearly a mile closer to the high school—we decided to send two members across the desert on foot to retrieve the supplies and return with the truck.
Fortunately, I drew a short straw and thus became one of the desert nomads. The good news was that my companion was also the cutest girl on the team. I wish I could remember her name.
Needless to say, we started on our trek and knew which direction to go, so we did reach our destination. And everything worked out as it should. However, that was one long walk because every so often, we would hear rattling from this direction or that, forcing us to shift our course slightly so as not to encounter any of our slithery little friends. It was quite an adventure, and I have loved the desert ever since.
My other ideal location is, of course, the beach. I suppose this could stem from one being so similar to the other, at least when it comes to sand. Actually, since sea water can’t be ingested anyway, it seems the desert and beach may be even more similar than I originally imagined.
Just ignore the fact that having sea water means having water to filter and drink, if you don’t mind. I was kind of on a roll there.
Anyway, few places bring me as much unadulterated joy and immeasurable relaxation as the beach. Something about the sweat beading up on your skin as you bake in the sun—the cool ocean breeze drifting in with the gentle lapping of the waves against the shore—transforms me into a large, white blob of pleasure-filled chillaxation—a delightful combination of chilling out and relaxing, for those unfamiliar with the term.
Toss in some bikini-clad women frolicking in the breakers and I am truly home.
Of course, there is good and bad in everything, and the beach is no exception. Sometimes you see things there you wish you had never seen, or meet people you never in a million years believed would cross your path. Occasionally you witness something unexpectedly hilarious—and no, I’m not talking about some overweight guy in a thong… even though he is always entertaining. And every so often, you discover that the beach has a dark side. It’s hard to find in most beach communities, but it is there. Believe me.
To celebrate this duality—and to pay homage to one of my favorite places—I offer the following gallery. Some of these images are humorous; others border on terrifying. But they all show just how interesting, wonderful and utterly ridiculous life among the sand dunes can be. I hope to see you there someday!
Posted on June 26, 2013, in Life, Perspectives, Writing and tagged beach, creative writing, desert, funny, Humour, inspiration, life, personal, perspectives, Travel and Tourism. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.