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Thursday, June 11, 2009


What enticed us to walk so far down the beach? Warm sunlight on our skin, salt-scented breeze. When we got warm, we splashed in the water, where the curling waves pushed up foamy aprons of cool surf. Then we would wander over toward the dunes, where the crabs dug their burrows and lines of clustered shells had been left by the tide. But always moving toward the point. Walking in the company of black-headed gulls and groups of scurrying sanderlings. Walking to the rhythms of the crashing waves.

The point of the island had always seemed too far before, but this morning it felt so easy to just keep walking, kilometer after kilometer up the shore. So we walked far past the last of the families with kids splashing and screaming with delight, past the surf fishermen, past even the fitness walkers, until we had the entire expanse to ourselves, except for one couple far ahead of us. We meandered toward the point until the first flash of lightening and later its boom of thunder made us notice the storm that was creeping and building over the point.

We turned around, and the car park area at the end of the beach where the lifeguards and people were looked hopelessly far away. The people themselves vanishingly small. The distance yawning open, like looking through binoculars the wrong way. We began walking back as the lightening and thunder continued behind us, and soon that other couple came running past. "We have to run," the woman said apologetically. They ran ahead of us and soon grew small in the distance.

I would have run, too, but my partner was not going to run. Not that she was unaware of the hazard. "Could we be any more exposed to a lightening strike?" she asked. "Maybe if we were hugging a steel flagpole," I offered. We did walk briskly though.

The storm moved in our direction, and the clouds grew heavy with darkness as rain poured behind us. It grew, with part of it moving out to sea beside us, so that it was almost encircling us. We walked, the lifeguard chair tiny in the distance, but not quite as tiny. We walked, feeling the cool wind from the storm on our backs. We walked and the bathing area of the beach grew a little closer. Cold raindrops scattered down on our backs. The storm was gaining on us. We walked. Then I could see it, our blanket and our things in the sand ahead. Maybe we would make it.

Finally we arrived at the deserted bathing area and gathered our things as the rain began to fall. We hurried over the dunes to the car park, where just a few people remained. The danger and sensory intensity was exhilarating. But we were relieved to be snug in the cozy car, from where we could appreciate the beauty of the storm in a different way.

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