Life’s a beach . . .

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I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky . . .

~John Masefield~

The sea drew Monet to strive to capture the shimmering appeal of the ever-changing beauty of water and sky.

When I was growing up, we’d usually take at least one day trip each summer to visit Pensacola Beach in the Panhandle of Florida. We would set out early in the morning with our picnic baskets and ice chests packed. I was always excited when I saw my first palm tree on the drive down; I felt as the tropics were right around the corner.

A vintage postcard from 1939 showing the old Pensacola Casino.

We would breakfast underneath one of the big shelters that lined the beach–a full breakfast with freshly-brewed coffee, bacon and eggs, thanks to the power outlets and Mama’s electric fryer and coffee pot. And I cannot forget the sheer deliciousness of freshly baked Krispy Kreme doughnuts from the little bakery just down the street.  Piping hot yeast-raised chocolate iced doughnuts, to be exact.  I was in heaven.

OK, add about a foot to the length of this little girl's hair and this could have been me coveting the fresh Krispy Kremes at the beach. Along with Blue Bell ice cream, the devil invented Krispy Kremes.

Like Richard, I was not a water-baby; I had a bit of a phobia about water, to be honest and didn’t learn to swim at all until I was an adult. I am mostly good at treading water and gliding.  And I was so fair I had to be careful about overdoing it out in the sun so I wouldn’t look like a blue-eyed lobster. Still, I loved going to the beach.

Perhaps if I had sported a parasol and bonnet and gloves at the beach as the ladies did in Victorian times, I wouldn’t have quite so many age spots and moles starting to pop up . . . but I certainly would have gotten a lot of funny looks if I had!

Monet's "The Beach at Trouville"

My pale skin and lack of aquatic finesse did not keep  me from admiring the beauty of the Gulf on a clear summer’s day, the feel of the fine-spun white sand between my toes and the chill of the water washing over my feet; the chance to build sandcastles and search for pretty shells to bring back as souvenirs. To wander in up to my waist and splash about.  Every child needs to spend some time at the seashore.

I can easily summon the memory of those trips: the smell of hot plastic from the inflatable floats, our names written on them with Magic Marker, the salty air, the coconut scent of Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion; the cry of gulls wheeling above us and the sound of transistor radios playing pop tunes and the squeak of the chains on the swings in the playground as we flew high in the air.

These days, if we go to the beach, it is to my sister and BIL’s condo down at Orange Beach here in Alabama (yes, Alabama has beaches, and quite beautiful ones).  Long wooden walkways protect the dunes and sea oats along the coast; the sand is a lovely sugar-white. Children still build sandcastles and search for shells.  We seek to capture the beauty we find in photographs and in paintings. We imprint it on our memories.

Orange Beach Alabama, where I have enjoyed some beautiful days on the Gulf of Mexico.

The eternal allure of the sand and surf, the sea and the sky; that sense of peace and serenity. The beauty of Mother Nature beckoning to us.

I think I understand how Monet felt.

Claude Monet's "Beach and Cliffs at Pourville."

I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky . . .

19 responses »

  1. You are an very good storyteller Angie and I love the sunny days of your childhood memories.
    I close my eyes and I can smell the salty air and hear the waves lapping on the beach !

    • Thanks, Nadia. It took a while to put it all together but I really enjoyed reminiscing about those long-ago days. 😀 We’ve had some really lovely weather recently and it’s the time of year a lot of young people are on spring break down on the coast. Guess that got me to thinking about it.

      When I was writing for the newspaper, I did a lot of feature writing (or what we call “human interest” stories) along with columns and someone once commented I knew how to “color” my articles. It’s a matter of bringing the senses into the story-sight, sound, scent, taste and touch whenever you can.

  2. Lovely, evocative post, Angie. Because we lived inland as I was growing up, summer holidays were always spent at the beach, and I have wonderful memories of those times with my family. Like you, I wasn’t a water-baby at all and was quite content to splash about in the shallows, occasionally being brave enough to ride a small wave in on an inflatable mat.
    We are fortunate here in Australia to have many, many beautiful beaches. For some reason I thought Alabama was landlocked, but now I know differently! Orange Beach looks lovely with its pristine sand and rolling blue waves. 🙂

    • Thanks, Mezz. I really can relate to Richard with his fear of water and admire him so much for facing the fear and tackling it head on. Just the thought of being in that tiny sub makes me uncomfortable. I have been on the Atlantis subs in Barbados, but it was a lot roomier than that tin can Richard was stuck in for CA!
      Actually, most of southern border of the state bumps up against the Florida Panhandle, but there is a small part of the state which extends into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico . . . you actually have to cross the Intracoastal Waterway to get to “Pleasure Island,” the nickname for the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area.

      Mobile is an active port city which was under Spanish and French control at different times during its history and it is actually the first city to hold Mardi Gras in the New World–NOT New Orleans. You can take a ferry to Dauphin Island from Mobile and visit a Civil War fort, with yet another fort located beyond the town of Gulf Shores. The Eastern Shores and the City of Fairhope is known for its many art galleries and antique shops and the fabulous Point Clear resort–very scenic and lots of lovely homes.

      Alabama’s Gulf Coast has many great seafood restaurants–do you know who the musician Jimmy Buffet is? His sister has a famous restaurant down in that area–and lots of great little boutiques and shops. And the sand really is beautiful. Very fine-grained and sugar-white. That’s the end of my tourism commercial for now. LOL

      I have always wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef. 😀 I have had the opportunity to see both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of the US.

  3. The beach is beautiful! I like to go when there’s no crowd and it’s to early or late to sunbath. It’s so restful to walk along and listen to the surf. However, I turn into a great big lobster in about 15-20 minutes! So I have a love/hate relationship with it! I’ve been on beaches from Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard in Mass. to Myrtle Beach in SC. and even Lake Erie! But it’s not my vacation of choice because of crowds and sun! The last time I went to Nags Head, I spent more time in the outlets and antique shops than on the beach! Of coarse that’s my third favorite thing to do after reading and Richarding!

    • My favorite time to go to the beach is off-season, really. I dislike crowds and when the heat and humidity climb as it does here in the summer, it’s just too hot. I prefer the spring or the autumn. That’s what is nice about the condo. Even if it’s too cold to get out into the water, you can still enjoy a walk on the beach. And since it’s on the 8th floor, there’s a stunning view from the balcony. There are some spectacular sunsets, too. I like to sit out there and read and enjoy the sound of the surf and feel the breezes off the water. Oh, and there is a big outlet center in Foley, where my sis and BIL have their house, so there is always shopping. 😉

  4. Angie, thanks for your “tourism commercial.” When I get the chance I’ll read it again with a map for reference so that I get a better idea of where the places you mention are. 🙂
    We holidayed in Cairns a few years ago, and had a day tour out to the Great Barrier Reef. Many people would say the best way to see it is by being underwater, snorkelling and scuba diving, but remember, I am not a water-baby so they weren’t an option! We took a half hour flight in a helicopter and for me, seeing it from the air was awesome; it was breathtakingly beautiful.

    • I did think of trying snorkeling on one of our cruises, but I decided against it. I don’t have good vision and I would have had to take out my contacts . . . It makes me feel so vulnerable, I guess. The helicopter tour sounds much more my thing. I know it was stunning!:D That is what I enjoyed about the Atlantis sub–I get a good underwater view while safely inside.

  5. Great beach memories for me, too, kiddo. You know that you & Benny are welcome at our little slice of paradise anytime you can make time to come.

    • Hey, sis, yes, even with my water phobia which you well remember, I did love those trips. Maybe when the tailbone heals up a bit more and before it gets too hot, we can come down for a visit.

  6. Growing up in landlocked Hungary and behind the Iron Curtain I didn’t get to see the sea until I was 15 and our Italian teacher at high school organized a class trip to Italy. Back in 1987 that was a pretty big deal. We travelled by train as it would have been more expensive to fly. The train stopped for an hour or so at Triest and some of us decided to leave our luggage on the train to walk to the port which luckily wasn’t too far from the train station. It was a glorious summer morning. I will never forget the experience, we could smell the sea before we actually arrived to the shore, and the salty sea air was mixed with the wonderful scent of freshly baked bread… I felt when we sat down on a bench on the seaside that I wanted to stay there forever! My first sight of the sea had such a powerful effect on me I can still remember it vividly after all these years… You guys are lucky to live close to beaches! I miss being near the sea!

    • We are in a good location, I think. Just a couple or so hours to the beach and a few more hours and we are in the mountains. And here we have green hills and pastures and lots of forestland. 😀 Now, if we could just do something about the humidity . . .

  7. I have been meaning to do a similar post to this one for ages – but you beat me to it! Chalk it up to “great minds think alike” again. 🙂 Actually, until recently, most of my beach experiences have been on lakes not oceans. I do love the beach, but prefer a bit of shade as I am of the lobster variety when exposed to too much sun!
    I love the Monet paintings too!

    • Oh, Philly, great minds, indeed! 😀 I actually wrote a column along similar lines several years ago for the newspaper. I have to be careful myself. I wear hats alot anyway and I wear sunscreen regularly as I am a prime candidate for sunburn and skin cancer. But there is something about the beach that draws me to it, pale-faced, non-water-baby that I am! 😉

  8. There’s a place not unlike Pourville in northern CA where I would run down to the beach in the mornings. Nothing like that sensation…

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