In some gross moment of oversharing my parents once pointed out some beach hotel where I was conceived.
My husband and his family are mountain people. They can fish and sit on the back porch for weeks and not ever want to go anywhere. And I just spent a week in the mountains. I like them. I like the way the air tastes cleaner. I like the mountain views and the fact that it isn’t 110 degrees like it is at home and that you can see a billion stars. But, there are only so many books I can read on the back porch before I get ancy. And want to drive or climb or find a town or an Americano.
But this week we are at the beach. And as soon as we crossed that long bridge, I breathed in the thick salty air as deeply as I could. It isn’t like the mountains. It is loud. The waves and the city. The air is thick and sweaty. And I’m up 24 floors reading on the balcony rather than the backporch.
And there is no doubt that I come from the water.
This morning me and my sneaks hit the sand a little after 8 am. This part of the beach is newly developed and pretty empty. Especially that early. So I didn’t see many people down my initial stretch. Except a guy who looked like he might be sleeping off some cheap whiskey from the night before on a tarp in the sand.
About half a mile down I saw three figures. All dressed in thin black robes at the shoreline. One of them was moving in circles and I thought he must be doing some kind of tai chi exercise. But. Then I got closer. And realized he was just spinning. Twirling, almost, like my daughter does when she puts on a dress, about knee deep in the surf.
All three of them had on the same robe that went from their ankles to their wrists. Their heads were shorn straight to their scalp. The robes were loose and it was hard to tell if they were men or women. Old or young. And none of them spoke. I watched carefully as I approached because I was intrigued by these figures that were so different than me. The one I saw first kept spinning and splashing. Another was sitting on the ground with his palms deeply planted into the sand like roots and his eyes were closed. He had to be praying. And possibly my favorite part of the scene was that right there on his lap sat a bright blue water balloon ready to be thrown. The last monk, or whatever they were was laying, full dressed, in the water, arms and legs spread wide like he was making a snow angel. Eyes closed, full of joy and peace. Just letting the water crash over him. He had a light smile on his face and I wondered what God he was praying to? And if it was the same as mine.
And I kept running until I ran out of beach and then climbed up and ran a few more miles down the seawall. But I kept thinking about those three figures. And how they seemed so oblivious to everything else. Except the ocean. And whatever God I’m sure they were praying to. And I ran and thought about other things and sweated and listened to my ipod, but their faces kept sneaking back into my head.
I looked for them on my way back. But, when I got back to where they had been, there was just a guy setting up umbrellas and chairs to rent. Nearly an hour had passed so the beach traffic was picking up a little. People were out walking their dogs and a few families were already laying claim to their spots in the sand.
And without thinking about it, I slipped off my Nikes. And tucked my key and ipod neatly inside. Strode out a few feet into the water. And laid down. Fully dressed. Arms and legs out just like I had seen earlier. And it didn’t feel like I expected. There was no bliss or peaceful smile immediately formed on my face. I was too distracted to pray. I worried a little about the sand in my hair. If someone was going to steal my ipod while I had my eyes closed. How I’d look walking through the lobby totally drenched. And what people were thinking if they saw a middle aged woman fully dressed just laying outstretched in the sea. But I kept my eyes closed. And tried to push all of that away. And eventually my breathing slowed just like it does when I lay on the floor after sweaty yoga. And prayed silently to my God as the waves lapped over me. And thanked him. And most of all hoped that if anyone happened to walk by that they noticed the smile on my face too.