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Sandy Day on the Beach

by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Bill-99As keen as I am on the beach and matters Maritime in general it was only today – after almost five months on Hilton Head Island – that I interrupted my ritual afternoon bicycle ride on the beach to lay on the sand to soak up the sunshine. Granted today was a spectacular beach day, dazzling sunshine, searing heat (79℉) and a glittering sapphire Ocean. The riotous Ocean breeze swept the clouds wildly about the azure dome, enlarging one’s thoughts and warming one’s mind to new ideas. Suddenly shadows raced over the face of the beach like a changing mood. The wind filled the lungs and buffeted the soul; it tanned the hide, tousled the hair and billowed the garments. It was an overwhelming and arresting blend that transported me to ineffable reveries.

When the tide is out, the beach is unimaginably wide.  There are however certain areas which are traditionally busier than others.  The beach is approximately ten miles long.  The strand extremities (north and south ends of the coast) attract less traffic primarily because the middle section coincides with a central location of the Town and has been set aside as a public park. As we hang our hat in Sea Pines at the southern end of the seashore, it is in that direction I go at the end of my daily bike ride.  At the most southern tip of the Island where it rounds Calibogue Sound, I invariably discover a vacant stretch of white sand upon which to settle and to gaze idly across the expansive beach onto the huge horizon. As elemental as are its constituents, the view of the beach is never the same. The palette of splendid colours transforms constantly as do the sandbars and remnant troughs of sea water.

In previous years I have more than once made a point of conducting the ceremony of lying on the beach in the sand about this very spot. My failure to have re-enacted the melding routine until today represents a significant departure from historical behaviour. Perhaps I was dissuaded this year by the comparatively comfortable chaise longue by the pool (though I am hard pressed to make a case for plastic weave and aluminum rods). Lounging by the pool has become part of my daily regime following what is normally an exhausting 2-hour bike ride. Collapsing in the sunshine is essential recovery from the exercise even if at my age it would be shameful to call it rigorous.

Contrary to what one may think, lying on the sand is per se no great discomfort (the white sand is powdery and soft). The only indignity might be the mechanical necessity of lowering oneself to the beach (and of course later recovering the erection). But for this small sacrifice it cannot be wrong to succumb to the intoxicating allure of nature. Today for example I dropped my bike on the beach, then used the rear tire to prop up my rubber Crocs which made a passably cushy head rest. What however was somewhat annoying – and it took a moment before I either recognized or recalled the complication – was the assault of the fine sand.  When airborne the sand is virtually unnoticeable except perhaps as a swirling spectre on the face of the beach.  But the otherwise welcome Ocean breeze with its invisible cargo imprints a legible punctuation. The sand is so fine – and it was so violently propelled in the palpable breeze – that it succeeded to impregnate my every cavity, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hair, around my watch band and generally plastered over my arms and legs like sugar. The sand is a stubborn passenger and adheres to whatever it touches.  I have no doubt that the suntan oils, lip balm and hair product applied when preparing for today’s seaside outing were ready instruments for securing these airborne particles.  At one point I caught myself inhaling a small sand dune on my lips and it caused me to cough worrisomely.

Such trifles are not to be given more credit than is reasonable.  They are – if you’ll forgive the pun – merely the grittiness of life! My sandy condition among the dry sticks of seaweed was but a reminder of the natural congress one should promote in a beach environment. Compounding this cooperative effort was of course the radiating heat, the foaming Ocean waves, the glaring sun and the dry whistling zephyr. Nothing competes with the weather-beaten sensation of the invigorating seashore elements. I sat upon the beach with the sand accreting about me and contemplated the horizon that was but a distant pencil-line of Eternity. The silky sand dissolved through my fingers like gold dust. There was a pervasive fizzle as millions of specks of sand scoured the beach. I surrendered to the rhythm of the Ocean waves and the dry soporific heat. I dreamed of white sailboats.




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