The trip out had been full of storms, which both delayed us and made me fret about whether the beach would be open, because my daughter was demanding, at irregular intervals, if we were at the beach yet, and explaining disappointment to the four-year-old birthday girl is difficult.
When we got there, at eleven, the clouds were thinning, though the wind had a chilly bite to it at times, and the parking lot was nearly empty. We spilled out of the van, all seven of us, and claimed a spot on the beach, dividing the labor of minding the children and each taking our turns at other occupations.
I spent a while building fortifications out of sand, and watching them collapse into the moat (though the tide was heading out, digging would suddenly reveal the sea resting like the Nun under the sand).
Eventually, covered in sand from these diversions, I made sure that the kids were watched, and I walked out into the Bay. The sea had receded to reveal one sandbar, and I crossed that and kept going.
There was a patch of red water a bit further out, as if the sea had been stained with blood that never dissipated, and I waded out to it, finding a brick-red sandbar hidden beneath the waves, and I sat on that, letting the water come up to my ribs, contemplating. My foot dug into the sand, and the redness gave way to perplexing swirls of purple and green.
By the later periods, storms had been also bound to sea, and I thought about that, and thought about the way the storms of the drive had kept a place for us on the beach, and many other things besides.
Schools of little speckled fish, moving like my memories of guppies (because they were that size, and thus they move like fish of that size) eventually gathered around me, swimming fiercely this way and that in the various currents of the receding tide. The waves slapped me with gentle force, and once I saw a hermit crab marching the length of the sandbar past me (as the children playing elsewhere in the water occasionally cried “Hermit crab” and charged in one direction or another in pursuit of similar sightings).
A helicopter buzzed overhead, an odd and artificial menace, and I watched it go; when it was gone, the waves resurged more firmly, as if to remind me that there are more dangerous things in the world than men.
When I stood up, the fish scattered, suddenly terrified that the immobile feature of the sandbar that was myself had shifted and cast a different shadow on the sea.
“Everything’s a storm to something,” I thought, as I walked back to shore.