Beachin' It

You know that one thing everyone in the entire universe seems to be head over heels in love with and you just can't seem to understand the appeal (Johnny Depp, Breaking Bad, that Kim K app that has actually stolen the lives and attention spans of many a friend of mine)? For me, it was the beach. Much Smaller Rachel marveled over the way others worshipped what seemed to me a day of accumulating grit onto your entire being and avoiding slimy things that touched your ankles when you were least expecting it. Descriptions of azure waves that sparkled beneath the sun like gemstones weren't fooling me. I was convinced the beach was nothing more than a convenient excuse to read a lot with no questions asked.

I find beach trips a lot more pleasant ten years later, which I assumed was mostly because it's a nice break from whatever routine I've wrapped myself in and a good place to be with friends. Driving back from St. Augustine last night, though, the sun in my chest, a thin shield of sand and salt embedded in my hair and skin, and shoulders beginning to burn, I wondered if it was something else. Existing within the sun all day has a curious effect on the body and mind, a distinct marriage between exhaustion and deep satisfaction remarkably similar to that felt after a day of hard work. A beach trip leaves you tired, satisfied, and covered in dirt, like true labor. I think the reason we're so drawn to the beach is that it offers all the positives of hard work with none of the actual hard work. There's a vague feeling of productivity that comes from being by the ocean that seems to have no understandable source. And I wonder if there is some deserved accomplishment inherent in the simple act of enjoying the physical universe, particularly a piece so beautiful. Emerson wrote that "the happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship", and we certainly worship that great swath of horizon. With good reason, I think.

To sunburns and tangled hair,


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