Beach Rituals

I came to the beach this weekend for a writing retreat. Any day at the beach is a better day than inland, but this has been a particularly chilly and windy weekend. Fortunately, we rented a large house on the water, so the views are amazing even if the air is bracing outside. Nonetheless, I had to follow one of my long-held beach traditions. Once the car was unloaded and I had dropped my bags in my room, I grabbed my winter coat and hat for a walk on the beach. I timed my arrival so a precious beach walk would be possible before dinner and the official start of the retreat. For me, the first order of business at the beach is to walk for 30 minutes to an hour. I crave the feel of wind in my hair, the salty air in my lungs and the smell of ocean. The stresses of my world dissolve the second I hit the sand.

This beach is unfamiliar to me. I have only been here once before, to my knowledge, and that was for another retreat. The house we rented that time was closer to the Back Bay where the sunsets were gorgeous. It was warm enough to kayak and wear short sleeves on that visit, even though it was early October. So, in a way, this trip feels like a completely new experience of Sandbridge, VA. As I walked the beach and looked at the houses, none were familiar. The shoreline looks much like the Outer Banks, but the sand dunes are more pronounced, and the beach seems wider. I followed the tracks of a very happy dog who clearly was as thrilled to be on the beach as I was, in the cloudy late afternoon. Very few people or even birds were on the windy shore, but I persevered and got in a 45-minute walk. I even warmed up enough to remove my coat and hat on the way back to the house.

My normal beach arrival ritual would involve dipping my toes into the water or walking barefoot in the surf. This afternoon it was in the upper 30’s, so I wore tennis shoes and walked parallel to the waves, carefully staying far enough away to keep my feet dry. On my walk back, I located our rental house from the landmarks I tried to memorize as I set out for my walk. I realized I need to get closer to the water before heading in to join the others who would be preparing for a shared meal. I dipped my hands into the remnants of a receding wave and baptized myself with the salt water. Again and again, I washed my face with the salty foam until I felt satisfied that my body had reconnected with the ocean and that my soul was renewed.

Each day we have been here, I have repeated this ritual, despite the biting wind and cold air. Today, the weather was sunny as I walked and I enjoyed the calm clear skies. Once I finished touching the water and cleansing my face, I picked up a few tiny shells to bring back home. They will be part of the collection of shells and sand that adorn my beach themed yoga room. These tiny mementos serve as reminders of the beauty and power of the place where my body, mind and spirit come for refreshment: the ocean.

Published by bmdavis1

I am a wife, mother of 2 grown sons, a school librarian and a certified yoga instructor. My hobbies include gardening, walking in nature and chasing around my two ornery cats.

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