The beach here in Jamaica is beautiful.
The water is a clear and vibrant greenish-blue, cool and refreshing but never cold. The sand is nearly white, and the palm trees sway gently in the breeze. The sun beams down with golden rays. The waves are gentle, little more than ripples, and spend themselves quickly on the sloping sand.
Pictures of the beach that I post on facebook get lots of feedback—comments from people who long to go there. It’s a must-see destination for visitors and tourists. It’s where we go every weekend on our day off.
But when I’m there I find myself comparing it to the beaches I know—the wild, chilly, invigorating beaches of Oregon—beaches where I’ve spent lovely, precious days with family and friends, and ran and screamed for joy and tasted the salt water and heard the mournful cry of the foghorns over the constant roar of the pounding waves.
And I have to say I would take the harsh chill of the Oregon beach, wrapped up in a hoodie, bits of hair, curled from the mist, blowing in the wind—I would choose this, most any day, over laying out, getting a tan, in the golden perfection of the Caribbean beach.
(I feel weird even saying it, because it’s so different from what everyone else seems to think, and almost feels ungrateful—like someone’s offering me caviar and I just want PB&J. I know the beach here is gorgeous, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy it…but it just makes me miss my Oregon beach.)
Oregon beaches are a drab tan, but incredibly fine and soft. When the tide goes out, it leaves a flat, damp expanse behind it, where the sand is smooth and firm, perfect for walking for miles and miles, as far as your feet can carry you—or for writing messages, or building a sand castle.
The days warm enough to do without jackets are perfect for wave-jumping, even though the water is so cold you gasp when it first grazes your toes. Standing with friends, hands clasped for stability, thigh-deep in the frigid water. Screaming as a wave nears, looms, enormous and powerful, and then—pushing off against the sand, perfectly timed to let that power carry you, sweep you off your feet. Landing again, numb toes digging into the silky sand, laughing and steadying the people around you. And then—the undertow, pushing, shoving, against the backs of your legs, pouring sand over your feet, as your heels desperately hold on, and the still it comes, insistently stronger, and for a moment you have only the most tenuous grip to the ground, and it feels as if the slightest slip would sweep you away, out into the endless raging gray chill of the ocean. And then it’s over, and the waves again, one after another, the sensation of being swept up and carried, pressing forward again to meet the next one, blissfully reveling in that incomprehensible power-bigger-than-you. Just one more…just one more…until, finally, that gigantic wave comes along, big enough to be the finale, and you give in to the reality of aches and numbness and wade inland, shivering and drenched in life.
I also miss the open space—wide stretches of sand, as far as you can see, with few other people around. I miss the sea birds. I miss the interesting little caves and inlets to explore. I miss the wind-patterns on the sand, and the driftwood, and the grassy dunes. I miss the massive, jagged boulders, and the waves that turn to white foam as they crash against them. I miss the tides, and the pools they leave behind them, and the sneaker waves that leave you sopping wet if you’re not paying attention.
(for excellent thoughts from a fellow cold-beach-person, go here. I actually had this post in my head before Esta did hers, which shows that great minds really DO think alike. 🙂 )