Monday, July 02, 2012

the beach


People that build their houses inland,
People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
Tons of water striking the shore --
What do they long for, as I long for
One salt smell of the sea once more?

People the waves have not awakened,
Spanking the boats at the harbor's head,
What do they long for, as I long for, --
Starting up in my inland bed,

Beating the narrow walls, and finding
Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning --
One salt taste of the sea once more?

-- Edna St Vincent Millay

It had been over a year. I mean, honestly, how does my family expect me to function?? The beach. The coast. The sea. The water. Finally.

We headed out camping – in the van! First time riding in it not pregnant. No cat this time, but that baby guy came along. Seems we've reconfigured our family just a little since the last van adventures.
Rhys meets the pop-up

We went to Connecticut – Long Island Sound. Hammanesett State Beach to be exact. I did not bring my camera. It wasn't purposeful, just forgot. So, no scrolling shots of the boys frolicking in the waves. A few pictures from Mike's phone, though.

cool sky

phone case in flight

We were trying to pick a beach with decent camping options that wasn't too terribly far. This one was under 2 hours. Except that we left with an awake, crabby Rhys and it turned into a very noisy and stressful 2 ½.

I wasn't sure we were making it, in more ways than one. It was one of those times you are pretty sure the folks at Google Maps were just bored (No, no GPS) -- up this road, down this hill, turn, turn, do the hokey pokey. It did not feel like we were at all approaching the coast. Small streets of greenery and loads of low rock walls so quintessentially New England that at any moment I figured Robert Frost was going to jump the hell out of the woods and point down one fork of the road. “It'll make all the difference!” he'd call after our camper van, his hands cupped around his mouth to be heard over the roar of the VW engine before waving us adieu.

But then, finally, there it was. The end of land. I let out a little inadvertent gasp when I saw it. And, stumbling out of the van, pretty nearly broke down and wept at the smell of the salt air.

These are not west coast beaches, of course. But they are beaches and the beaches of my youth – the ones with miles of sand to walk, warmish water, oyster and welch shells deposited in long lines. It was familiar for sure.

I kept driving past the spot for our campsite confused – according to the map it should be there, but no parking spot, no firepit, nothing there. Then I found out you rent the firepit (lame) and you just park on the grass wherever the hell you feel like it. In California, this would never fly. Complete anathema. First of all, there would never be so much freaking grass, and if there were grass, you sure as hell wouldn't drive all over it. The presence of grass would mean someone worked really, really hard to make it green and since there is actually no water to maintain it, you have to respect that it's there at all. Here, of course, the flipping state song of Massachusetts is the lawn mower.

There is an odd conundrum about space and the coasts. In CA, there is so much land, but everyone is shoved into tiny, expensive premium spots that they fence off. In the northeast, there are tons more people and less land, but everyone has huge yards, separated by maybe a line of bushes if anything. (This set up could partially explain why people felt the need to constantly walk right through the middle of our site while we were there, while the baby was trying to nap etc. It didn't sit well.)

Like everything done with kids as opposed to what we'd do “back in the day,” the beach was different. I went later than I wanted to, left earlier. Isaac would have eaten sand and slept in the beach roses of course, but his brother was another story.

On our 10-minute trek to the beach multiple times a day, we'd pass the closest campsite to the water (our own spot carefully chosen for the shade), which besides being steps from the sand, had no shade, no character, and suffered the constant stream of people walking and biking past their tents which they'd pitched inches from the road. Why would they put them there? I wondered.

“Eh, they are probably a couple of 20-somethings and just hungover anyway,” Mike comments.

I look around at the general demographic of that section of the campsite – its RVs with satellite dishes, its occupants' grey hair blowing in the breeze over their lounge chairs – and am dubious. However, on our return, another nap on the horizon for Mr Rhys, we see two guys roughly 25 years old shuffling around a fire in plaid pajama bottoms. One of them is smelling something he's about to eat, the other is shooting Nerf arrows from a kid-sized plastic bow. Bingo. Husband-guy nailed this one.

“Those guys are awesome,” Mike says, perhaps a touch wistfully, as our family crew saunters past.


Kitty said...

I can't believe I wrote this beach story up without mentioning that the first morning we were there it was torrential rain and lightning and the four of us spent 6 hours cooped up in that van.

Susannah said...

Jeez, I just typed a really long comment and then it vanished when I tried to post it. Anyway, I love the beach stories and the photos, and seeing Rhys with his all knowing look as he wisely places his hand against the screen and leans to get a better look. I imagine the lightning storm was a bit scary. Glad you made it to the coast. And the poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, thanks for that too.

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