“maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as the world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea”
§ ee cummings §
As a general rule, I don’t like beaches.
That said, I adapt quickly. I moved to Spain. Spain has lots of beaches. Spanish people love beaches. Spanish people spend a lot of time on the beaches. Therefore, I go to the beach.
But why? Why are beaches so popular? Because there isn’t much variation to beaches. Sand, grit, water. Hot sun, sunburns, suntan lotion (the Brits call it sun cream…I think that sounds nasty). Some have more people and therefore more trash. Both Ocean City MD and Ocean City NJ have so many people that finding the sand is a full time job. In Costa Rica, they have palm trees and monkeys. In British Columbia, they have bald eagles. In Maine, the water is freezing. In North Carolina you have to watch out for things that sting and bite. In England, no one goes in the water, they just have these atrocious boardwalks (it’s good that my love of England isn’t hindered by it’s less-than-attractive beaches, as beaches are never a priority for me). In Italy, you can find beaches with locals in various states of undress.
And in Spain, well, is there anything special about the beaches here? In one sense, no. Sand, water, sky. I like the beach by night better than the beach by day. The nighttime beach is quieter—and for some reason, I feel like if I stare out at the depths of the sea, the waves will spit out the answer to my nagging questions. As ee cummings put it, “it’s always ourselves we find in the sea…” and maybe that’s true. So in another sense, yes. I am used to the water being an ugly sheen of dark grey that we call blue. Here in Spain, the Mediterranean Sea is a brilliant turquoise, the most beautiful colour you can imagine! The photos can’t even capture the true colour.
But why are they so popular? I don’t know. Perhaps because people enjoy running around in fast-drying underwear (going off that, why is it okay to wear a speedo or a bikini on the beach, but if I were to walk around the street in my bra—which covers more than most bikinis—I’d be considered insane?)
But maybe that’s it. The beach allows behavior that is normally not allowed. Undressing until most—if not all, on some beaches—of our skin is exposed, is not only normal, it is encouraged, even necessary. You can lie in the sand and ignore the world. So-called beach-reads are nothing more than cheap paperbacks, the kind that even the authors tend to admit are crap. You can be as loud as you want, you can invade each other’s personal space. Packs of beer and bags of chips–none of those green vegetables we eat at out dining room tables. The rules are chucked out the window. And in the process, you can get a tan, which is of course today’s fashion. (Though just as dangerous as the white skin enhanced by white makeup mixed with lead that the Victorians used to find fashionable).
The beach will probably never be my thing. But alright, I’m here, so time to enjoy it! (By the way, that book in the photo is a collection of children’s stories in French…not your typical beach-read…)