I will not.
And I hope, neither will you.
The smell of the sea reaches us miles before we arrive at our spot, just the side of the road with little trails to the shore; the multi-hued sand particular to the northern California coast spreads onto the asphalt, clumps of seagrass fronds wave.
Visiting family stretches outside car doors and, with a short walk to the broad beach, inspects the sea with contentedly landlubber eyes.
I am having a different experience, as if I’ve suddenly turned exiled sylkie, desperate for my hidden seal skin.
Under sky brilliantly royal, with wind mild yet crisp, the sand beneath my feet begins mocking my human legs with its particular pull and grab. The task of walking turns me clumsy and coarse. I look for seals in the waves.
The crashing of blue-grey-green breakers topped with froths of ivory intoxicates. Sky, sea and sand seduce.
An overwhelming yearning takes over: to shed shoes, shed constraint, shed the roles of ‘civilized’ middle-aged woman at the beach.
My body has grown dense, all this conforming, adapting, ‘behaving,’ in life. Roles: mother of grown sons, grandmother to two girls, wife, writer, artist, house-keeper, co-commander — beloved — yet, today, by the sparkling sea, societal roles sit heavy.
It’s so rare, this standing at the vibrant ocean, letting daily life wait.
My niece will think I’m nuts. My sister-in-law might disapprove; my father-in-law will think I’m wild. Immature. Improper.
Vibrancy, spontaneity, begin to pulse at the core where internal ‘I’ resides, louder, louder. Persistent. Exuberance of all things wild west coast, wild Pacific coast, rises.
Staying sedate is impossible, no matter my age. It’s this pulse. This amazingly gorgeous today. This insistent: now!
Shoes are off.
I am off.
Running! Joy bubbles up while embarrassment colors my cheeks.
Faster — outrun embarrassment. Outrun it all. Judgment from strangers. Pursed lips from family. Surveys about How To Behave When You’re Over Forty.
The world of water beckons, I must run to it, I am being called.
The entire world beckons. We must run to it. We are being called.
The beauty of being alive on this planet overwhelms me, envelops me. The crisp, cold, salty embrace of the ocean, it’s freezing, exhilarating, all over my legs and thighs. Froth and salt splashing up, across, soaking entirely my skirt, my shirt, my face.
I don’t care. I am too busy loving this. Feeling fully alive. My smile just won’t stop.
Running along at the meeting of wave and sand, the low-slung sun lights the sea with millions of diamond-like sparkles. Pelicans dip and swirl, seagulls screech and soar, children up and down the beach splash and play. One middle-aged woman does, too.