Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beach Reading

It’s ninety-two degrees, but with the steady, southerly breeze coming in off the Gulf of Mexico, the air feels cooler.  Lucky that, because there’s not a cloud in the sky, and the only reprieve from the sun's heavy light is given by an island of shade under my umbrella.  My feet are hidden, buried up to my ankles in sugar-white sand that reflects the sun like a mirror.  Underneath the top layer, the sand is surprisingly cold and soothing to the touch.  It moves in and out of my toes and I wonder in what peculiar places it might later turn up - shoes, wallets, car seats? 

A line of sargassum has washed up from high tide forming a sort of makeshift sea wall.  Most might find it a nuisance, but I'm glad to see it.  The golden tangle of leaves and hollow seeds look healthy, a hopeful sign of renewal considering last year’s Deep Water Horizon disaster. 

Crystal-clear waters glimmer in the sunshine.  So many cliches come to mind to describe the view of the ocean, all of them true.  Blanket of diamonds.  Stars in the night.  Shattered glass.  Called the Emerald Coast for good reason, the water's bright green color drifts into deep blues before meeting sky.  A flash of foamy spray disturbs the surface beyond the first sandbar where a school of fish is feeding off the sargassum shrimp.  After a moment, the gulf is once again calm, and the hit-and-run raid on the crustaceans ends. 

At the shoreline, tiny waves lap at the sand like a pet would the hand of its master.  I listen to the gentle sound from under my umbrella, content in my reclining chair that’s covered by an embarrassingly colorful beach towel.  Beside me is a cooler stocked with canned light beer - the kind with fake lime taste added.  For whatever reason, this brew actually tastes good when consumed near a body of water.  Something to do with the salty air, I guess.

Seagrove Beach, Florida is a well-kept secret, but it has been familiar to me for years and my family and I come as often as possible.  Normally, the beaches remain rather bare, but being Memorial Day Weekend, it’s crowded enough to invite people watching.  Though instead of leering at random people walking by, I’m doing what has become as commonplace on a beach as building sand castles: reading a book.  The Book Thief, to be specific.  For a while, I’ve been dying to read it and so far, it’s poetry. 

Hours pass.  Zusak’s prose has me thoroughly enthralled, though I'm concerned a book narrated by Death is subject matter too heavy for beach reading – an activity usually reserved for airy, light books. Luckily, the whimsy in The Book Thief’s storytelling encourages me on. 

Families come and go.  The breeze shifts and the water currents change.  Waves pick up and then die down again.  Hundreds of beach walkers wander by.  All of this occurring in my peripheral, hardly noticed, my attention glued to the book.

The heat of the day begins to fade as does the afternoon sun.  My last beer is empty and I notice I’m where I started this morning – alone on the beach.  It's time to go.  I fold my umbrella, my chair, and pack up my cooler with empty cans.  My towel hangs from my shoulder, draped like a toga, and after reading the last line of a chapter I deem worthy to be a good stopping point, my book closes and I make my way to the boardwalk.

Tomorrow’s forecast?  Ninety-two degrees, with a steady, southerly breeze coming off the Gulf of Mexico.


  1. You are making me very jealous. I know Sea Grove! That's where I went for senior graduation. It is cold and rainy here. And no whiskey!

  2. That's it, Alexa. I'm putting my foot down. You've gone far too long without bacon-infused whiskey. Get down here and promote that book!

  3. But I'm a vegetarian! Is there bacon-flavored tofu whiskey?

  4. I will be on the beach again in mere moments, and I'm following the trend of reading whilst lounging in the sun.

    I'll drink a rum (ek, whiskey is icky) and coke for ya :P

  5. Alexa, if they can put a man on the moon, they can surely give us bacon-flavored tofu!

    A.M. - You're a proper pirate! ;)