by Beth Burrell

 

by Lotte van der Krol

you walk up the dune path, sandals slapping against the concrete stairs, worrying if you took any valuables from your car, if you put your keys somewhere safe, if you brought sunscreen and sunglasses and locked the front door, when suddenly the stairs fall away and there is the sea.

the sea, glittering in the sun, vast and wide, stretched out to the horizon. its salty, fishy smell comes to meet you, welcomes you here. the wind plays with your hair as you close your eyes and breathe in the clean sea air and your shoulders drop for the first time in weeks, maybe months.

the sun beams, but not so much that it scorches the skin off your bones, just enough that it burns away the cold in your chest. it makes you kick off your shoes and plunge your feet into the soft sand as you stumble down the dunes. in your haste you almost step on a sharp piece of shell and you think of a poem about dangers hidden in softness but before you can form the words you smell the salty seawater again and the thought glides from your mind like a kite on the wind.

little groups of people dot the beach, but there’s a quiet this afternoon, a quiet you needed. you walk along the shoreline, your shoes tied to a strap of your backpack, letting the cool waves wash over your feet. you wander around, picking up shells here and there, and time seems to pass differently, hours going on endlessly, punctuated only by the waves crashing on the sand. there’s only the smell of salt and seaweed, the warmth of the sun, the soft sand between your toes, and the sea, the constant sea. you look up at the water and watch its grey mass move back and forth and you think of stories about what could lurk in dark depths preying on the innocent but then you’re distracted by the way the waves catch the sunlight and you feel like things can just be good sometimes.

you wander away to where you have the sand all to yourself, and you strip down to your bathing suit and run into the water before you can change your mind. the cold hisses on your warm skin, wet sand squelches between your toes, a wave crashes against you and you taste salt in your mouth. you try to swim but the waves are unsteady and eventually you just dance with them and in the corner of your mind there are words about dark waves rising up high, casting you in a cold shadow, but you realize you don’t have to, you don’t want to, so you lie back and let the waves rock you gently.

the day passes slowly, but even so your skin turns red from the sun and your body gets beach-worn and then night is falling. you’re an achy kind of tired, but your muscles are relaxed, the worry wind-blown from your mind, replaced by a calm emptiness. you climb back up the dunes and sit down at the top between plumes of dune grass to watch the sun turn the water orange and the sky green. drowsiness sets in your limbs and you wonder what it would be like to sleep on the sand, beneath the stars that are about the come out, to stay in this place a little while longer.

but when the sun sinks below the horizon and the water turns dark, you get up after all and walk down the concrete steps back to your car, still with sand in your shoes and sun in your eyes and saltwater in your soul.

Image via Beth Burrell