A Day At The Beach!

I live in San Francisco, in the Sunset District, and September is our hottest month of the year! It must be 80 today! When I came back from the laundromat, all my neighbors at my apartment complex were hustling and bustling about, getting ready for a day at the beach…The anticipation is palpable, the possibilities endless and the weather is beautiful!

The young kids were the most excited of course, to them the beach is an endless expanse of sand, sun and surf, a place to build sand castles and play tag with the waves and run around and scream as loud as you want, and maybe actually jump into the water and get wet…There is a dangerous riptide which can knock down and suck in the unwary here, so most people don’t venture out too far from the shore, and the parents keep a watchful eye on their kids….

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For the older people, the adults, it is so rare for the sun to pierce our perennially foggy neighborhood it is almost as exciting…They get to lay out on beach towels and soak up the rays, or maybe lay out blankets and a beach umbrella to shield them from the harshest rays of the sun, and maybe quaff a cold one or nibble on snacks or even break out a hibachi and just enjoy the summer weather that is common in most parts of the country in the summer…Here in foggy San Francisco it is a rarity, a day to be measured and treasured and pleasured for all that it is worth…..

When you go to the nearby Ocean Beach, approximately 6 blocks from my house, you never know what you will find…But we are tucked away here at the foot of faraway Taraval street, far from the main part of the beach, which is closer to the Safeway at the Beach supermarket on Lincoln, so we have relative privacy and lots of space, even on a hot day like today…Plus we can walk, while people from other parts of the city have to drive out and deal with the hassle of parking their cars, although the parking lots are all free of charge…

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The beach is many things to many people; during the week when it is usually cold and foggy the only people out there are the fisherman and people walking or running their dogs off leash on a daily basis…But on a traditional true hot summer’s day like today, it is like fantasy land for the kids, and the parents can share in their joy and wonderment too, and for one day at least forget their jobs and responsibilities…Besides, we are in the middle of the 3 day Labor Day weekend, so almost everybody is home anyway…..

There are always sea shells and beautiful rocks washed up by the pounding waves as the surf crashes onto the beach, and there are real surfers too, clad in their wet suits to keep them warm from the very chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean; this is far from the warm waters of Hawaii….But on a hot day like today sometimes even the surfers often forgo their tops, it is just that warm and beautiful!

And I have always been impressed by their bravery and dedication as they paddle far out from the beach past the smaller waves and seek out the area about 100 yards offshore where the biggest breakers form up…Then somehow they nimbly climb up on top of their boards and ride the biggest, most worthy waves all the way into the beach…it must be a truly liberating, ecstatic feeling to be on that tiny board propelled by the force of the waves and only maintained by an uncanny sense of balance, agility and coordination…

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When I go to the beach, it is usually with friends or family these days….When my daughter was little I would always take her and one of her friends with us to the beach and let them enjoy the sun, the sand, the surf whenever the weather permitted, on a day just like today for example….

They never grew tired of it, it was always like a fresh new adventure to them, and seeing it through their young eyes made it fresh and new for me every time too…My personal favorite thing to do was just be a beachcomber, walking along the shores and playing tag with the waves and picking out the best seashells and brightly colored rocks that the ocean had to offer that day….Distance means nothing at the beach, it is a limitless expanse of sand..

I always brought along a couple of bags, one for the delicate sea shells and one for the rocks to bring home as treasures and trophies and reminders of our day of fun and sun at the beach, and many of those very same seashells and rocks still decorate my house today!

Now that I am older and live alone, i don’t get to go to the beach as often, but I still pursue my old beach combing habits, and replenish my stock of seashells and ocean rocks periodically, they make wonderful in home or outside decorations, and they always have a mysterious backstory which I can only guess at, like where did they come from, how did they get here, why are they here just now, ready for the plucking and harvesting….

Oil still left in the sand on Ocean Beach. Frederic Larson / The Chronicle Photo taken on 1/2/08, in Sausalito, CA, USA
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Or sometimes just sit on the sand and look out across the flat blue waters of the Pacific Ocean as it stretches seemingly into infinity, till the curvature of the earth makes it look like the water just stops and spills off the edge of the world, as ancient people once thought…

Now in this modern satellite mapped world we realize there is a whole other world on the other side of the ocean, and you wonder how many people are sitting on their beaches in Japan and China and other parts of Asia looking eastward over the ocean at the same time we are looking westward…Who knows, maybe thinking the very same thoughts, feeling the very same feelings, the very same sense of awe and wonder that we feel here gazing out at the mighty Pacific Ocean…

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One thing is sure, today is a “beach day” in San Francisco, as we call it, and I am sure that whatever particular pleasures you seek at the beach, today, especially for the kids, you will be rewarded, and you will have a precious memory to store away…All we can do is live one day at a time, and this is a beautiful one to savor!

For more articles by John Whye, click on johnwhye@wordpress.com

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