I swallowed a lot of saltwater when I was younger. I grew up on Cape Cod and lived five minutes down the road from the beach, spending more time there than I did at home. On days where the waves rolled in heavy, I would run a few big steps into the ocean and sit down with my legs jetting straight out and then wait until a wave cured in and flipped me over, causing underwater somersaults which I used to love even though it filled me with saltwater from my stomach to my ears. Saltwater somersaults filled me with so much of the ocean that I became tied to it.
I got older alongside the ocean and when the waves rolled in heavy, I did as well. All the way down to my feet. I would clomp through the sand and listen to the waves crashing at the shore. I would look down at the sand and breathe out the heaviest sigh I could. Kicking my sneakers off and falling back into the sand, I sat just far enough that the ocean could barely touch my toes before getting pulled back out. I would watch the sunset unfold and the sky would bleed from a light blue to a watercolor painting of lilac, yellow and orange until it eventually turned into the same dark blue as the ocean. The longer I stayed, the lighter I felt. We sat in silence when things were loud.
The ocean became a place that comforted me in times of loneliness, anxiety or fear. It was a place that was always there. When I felt light enough, I would put on my sneakers and retrace the hard footprints I had made toward the water and leave softer ones beside them.
The world is pretty loud right now and it can be hard to get away from it. If I could go sit on the sand again, I would. More people are beginning to return to the ocean. I am not talking about the people who are having parties, standing shoulder to shoulder and filling the beaches (don’t do that). I am talking about the people who are seeking solace there.
The beach is a place where you can walk down long stretches of sand, watch your dog gallop excitedly in and out of the water or sit in the car with windows down and just be present. That is all the beach can be for the time being.
Some beaches are beginning to close because not everyone wants to practice social distancing. The parking lots are chained, and the sand is lacking footprints. While there are debates and arguments about allowing the public on the beach, it comes down to whether people who are willing to keep their distance. I have felt lonely, been filled with anxiety or fear, and there are many who are feeling that way right now and some of them are at the waterline for an escape.
Don’t be the person who takes that away.