…and long moonlit walks on the beach. I’ve got to admit that this popular item on many folks’ “favorite things” list does seem to be a romantic way to end a nice day. I’m not really a beach nut, but it has its charm. The powerful surf pounds and tumbles as it approaches the dry sand, fading to just a whisper as it flows in to caress the shore and then ebbs away. I’ve sat beside the ocean and waited for someone to flip the switch so the perpetual motion would stop, but the noisy surf just keeps pouring in again and again. The cool breeze blows in off the ocean (or gulf) and provides free air conditioning for the sun worshippers during the day. Children wading, families swimming, a few brave souls surfing or wind-surfing, even a horse-back rider or two galloping through the receding surf. What’s not to like?
Sand, for one. Sand is one of those enigmatic materials to me. Where it has been dampened by the water, the sand is almost solid, hard enough to drive on and great for jogging, or for building sand castles. But, sit in the water and poke it with your finger and it melts. One minute you’re sitting on a solid surface, the next, there’s a giant chasm under you, dropping you into deeper water. And sand is even trickier than that. It dries out. And, becomes grit. In your food. In your shoes. Underneath your clothes. In the carpet of your car. Worse than that, the gentle breeze, that wonderful cooling wind off the ocean? It is in cahoots with the sand, giving it wings, flinging it into your face as you mount the sand dunes, or walk to the nearest bathhouse searching for a shower to wash it off your feet and out of your clothes. Every time, in the end, sand is an annoyance; the very thing that entertained and supported you is something to wash out of your hair, off your body, and out from under your car.
Oh, those moonlit walks on the beach? Better wear your shoes. I’ve walked down the beach many times on South Padre Island, only to have to give a wide berth to the ever present gelatinous creatures called the Portuguese Man-of-War. A little like a jellyfish, these are actually four organisms in one, each organism supporting the whole beautiful (ugly) creature. The float portion, from which the little fellow gets his name due to the shape, provides the transportation, the “wheels” if you will. This section is relatively harmless, but it’s what draws you close to examine the poor, stranded creature on the sand. The second organism is the reason you don’t want to try to help it back out to sea. This is the tentacle section, hanging down below the bladder-like float. The tentacles can reach as much as 65 feet long and are highly toxic, causing serious burning stings to humans and most other animals. Their real purpose is to stun or kill fish below the water’s surface and draw them up to the third organism which functions as the digestive system for the strange creature, essentially dissolving the prey over time for the use of the strange colony. The fourth organism is responsible for reproduction of the deadly conglomeration.
Funny, isn’t it? The beautiful and exotic are often the deadly objects that can cause the most harm. We want to touch, to feel, but the result is excruciating pain and loss of control. The beautiful quickly loses its appeal. The burned hand is not quick to reach out for the fire again. Even the sand, that seemingly solid, though shapeable material, turns to bite and taunt its admirers.
As I think about these annoying, even dangerous things at the captivating seashore, I’m reminded that all of our life is like that. We live out our existence in dangerous locales. There are spiders and wasps, thorns and burrs, lightening and blizzards outside. Inside, we surround ourselves with drinking glasses that break and cut, heaters for warming our homes that burn the skin, stairs built for access that we fall down, and beautiful furniture that has corners that we run into and injure ourselves upon. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m reminded of a story I read many years ago, in which a young man lost his sight and was at a school relearning his dangerous world without vision. As he ran into one of those painful corners on a piece of furniture, he asked, “Why don’t they pad all those sharp corners?” The reply came, “The world has corners; you’ll have to learn to deal with it.”
So, take your moonlit walks on the beach (wearing your shoes). Enjoy life in this terrestrial wonderland! Sure there are dangers. There always will be, this side of Heaven. Deal with it. Life has corners!
“When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running, and he says he’s doing nothing, but the dog is barking, call 911.”
(Erma Bombeck~American humorist and columnist~ 1927-1996)