Friday, March 19, 2010

The Beach Awakens From Its Winter Nap

It's mid-March and I'm walking the beach and see lots of footprints in the sand.

Mingling with dog-paw marks and flip-flop prints, I notice remnants of children's feet, lots of lovely happy children's feet. I stop. I smile, wide-eyed. In awe. Because I've just witnessed something I've never seen before: A beach awaken from hibernation.

When we first arrived at Padre Island National Seashore, it was early February. And it was cold, windy. The beach population was two. Us. Well, four, counting our two Standard Poodles. The elements rushed everyone off. The sand was not smooth. It was dotted with tiny wisps of jagged sand ridges, each topped in black,  creating amazing geometric patterns.

The wind constantly worked to erase all prints, ever ours, to create those patterns.

Over the next few days, the wind calmed a little, and the fishermen joined us, adding their wader boots prints to our shoe prints and paw prints. Soon we noticed other prints in the sand, too, those of more people and more dogs. Necessary walks; nothing casual. Yet.

After a while, the tormenting wind turned into a gentle breeze (well, it does keep losing its temper from time to time, but mostly, it's a gentle ocean breeze). So joining the necessary walkers and waders were sitters, mostly women, the wives of the fishermen, who often walked the beach, looking for shells. Then, others, also shell seekers arrived. Casual walkers.

Today, as we walk the beach, the wind is at rest, the warming sun shines brightly and a melange of footprints mingles with ours. The beach is transformed, no longer bearing evidence of just fishermen, wives and dogs. It explodes with life, with people of all ages,  playing, swimming, chasing soccer balls and footballs (Here's a slide show; click on the slide show button top left, then click on the minus sign to change the time from 3 to 1 second in order to watch the toss. It's fun.)

Children shriek happily, running in and out of the waves. Teens and 20-somethings flirt. I see a beach wedding. Kids sing while sitting on top of cars. Others snowboard down the sand banks. There are lots of sand castles rising from the sand and kits taking flight. Fire pits under construction signal barbecues to come.

The beach is young again. Full of life. Vibrant, happy. Joyful. It has awakened from a long winter's rest. Ready to play again.

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