My Beach by Donna Marie West

On a map my beach has a name but to me it’s simply the place where the ocean meets the shore, just down the road from the house where I grew up. I haven’t been there for thirty years but if I relax and close my eyes I can return to the days when I would go there, with my notepad and pen, and dream of becoming a writer.

I remember the last time I went to my beach (the morning of the day I moved away) as though it were the clichéd yesterday.  

I descend the twenty-some cracked cement stairs and step into the warm sand, sinking to my ankles in the tiny grains ground down from rocks by countless eons of wind and waves. I love the feel of the sand beneath my feet, deep and loose near the grass so that it’s hard to walk; firm and flat near the edge of the water. In some places there is no sand but rather, smooth oval pebbles of white, grey, black and pink that chatter when I step in them as though they’re trying to tell me a secret.

White-haired gentlemen smoke pipes and walk their dogs here. Mothers wearing sunglasses read or knit or take photos for the family album while their children build castles in the sand or splash laughing at the water’s edge. In the evening lovers, young and old, stroll here hand in hand, but I prefer it early in the morning, like today, when I have the entire beach to myself.

I hear the squawk of the omnipresent seagulls and I look overhead to see a dozen of the grey and white scavengers searching for crabs or luckless little fishes trapped in the tidal pools, and leftovers from yesterday’s picnics. The odd day when I bring a bag lunch, I always throw out a few bits of crust or cookie for the birds.

I smell the particular fragrance of the ocean, salt and seaweed and last night’s bonfire, all mixed together in a jumble that is perfume to me. I can taste the salt in the air. I know I’ll feel it in my hair when I leave.

The tide is low this morning, and the beach is a vast horseshoe-shaped ribbon stretching from rock point to rock point. The sky is clear, and the ocean is beckoning-blue. When the day is cloudy the water is a dull, forlorn grey and when the wind comes up the wrathful waves are capped in white.

Pieces of driftwood are scattered like ghostly statues that sometimes turn out just right for fabricating a fort or a hideaway, until the tide comes back and re-arranges it all again. Sometimes, I sit in the sand with my back against one of the big logs stripped bare by the unforgiving waves and I write whatever comes to mind.

But not today.

Today, I take off my sandals and leave them safe in the dry sand to wade into the water. I gasp at its coolness, but I know it will grow colder the further out I go. Just past knee-deep, I can feel the current tugging on me, inviting me to join it, asking me to stay.

I turn around before my toes go numb and wade back to shore. I sit on a huge, water-ravaged spider of a tree trunk to let my legs dry and to  listen to the timeless whisper of the waves as they break against the shore.

I gaze out across the immense, eternal water. It goes on and on until, somewhere out there, it meets the sky. It comforts me, reminding me how small I am and how my problems, although they seem enormous to me now, probably don’t matter much in the whole scheme of things.

A lump comes to my throat suddenly and unbidden. I feel terribly sad. I don’t want to think I’ll never see this place again.

I promise myself I’ll come back one day – some day – but  take strength in knowing that even if I don’t, my beach will be here always, soothing and inspiring the privileged souls who walk its ancient shore …. and dream.

I was born in Montréal and raised on the British Columbia coast. I am a member of the Québec Writers’ Federation. My publishing credits number over one hundred fiction and non-fiction stories in a variety of Canadian and American magazines, including WHAT IF?, HORSEPOWER, STORIES FOR CHILDREN, POSITIVE TEENS, THE CONQUEROR, MYSTERIES MAGAZINE, and OUR LITTLE FRIEND. I am a major contributor to P’TIT TROT, a horseback riding book for children available across Canada, as well as an anthology entitled SCARLETT WHISPERS.

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