I have been spending a lot of time on the beach lately, much more than I can ever remember doing as an adult. Probably like most people who went to the beach early in their lives, I have a host of childhood memories that make the idea of a day at the beach really exciting- flying the batman kite, the tar smell of the shampoo my grandfather would scrub our heads with to wash out the sand, the promise of fried calms, the smell and feel of noxema on sunburnt skin, even sandy gritty cantaloupe holds a special place in my heart.
I don't eat clams anymore, I have no idea what that tar shampoo was so that is gone forever, I am too lazy to run enough to launch a kite, and I use SPF 50 so no more sunburn (do they still make noxzema anyway?). The cantaloupe is still sandy, at least I have that!
There is a bit of sadness without those things that made a beach trip special when I was young. My adult body now recognizes the beach as hot, crowded, noisy, itchy, sticky and windy. However, I am still going, and I this weekend while walking on the boardwalk I began to understand my grown-up delight of the beach, and it gelled into some thoughts that I wanted to share.
I have been experiencing the beach as a great equalizer, and when something is equalized it becomes unified. Here is how I see the equalization- people are, for the most part, joyful when they come to the beach. Adults get to play like children and children get to play like crazy! People like to be with other people that are joyful! Beachgoers are hanging out with the birds, crabs, solps (look it up), fish, dolphins, mussels and the clams that have yet to be breaded and fried. We are all sharing this open space and can contact all of the elements (earth, water, fire, air, space). You can witness the way families walk alike, marvel at the people who are starting to look like their dogs, and the dogs excited to hanging out with the humans. We get to engage in many levels of vulnerability which helps cut through our seperateness. For example, when was the last time you fell asleep in a public place, or took most of your clothing off and walked around with other people looking? There are lovers loving each other for the variety of reasons that they do. In witnessingthese connections, we observe the force of attraction in action which does not follow logic and reason. You get to see so many different kinds of bodies, and how people are inhabiting their bodies with their extraordinarily uniqueness in a way that I don't think happens in regualar street clothes. Despite all the differences one can observe I feel we are sharing something that is the same in all of our bodies- our humaness is very present and our light shines out. Not inspite of the obvious differences, but because of them.
It is possible not everyone is experiencing this great equalization power of the beach, and that is ok. My experience makes me feel like I have been mashed into a unified soup and so I am a part of this moving pulsing organism of beachyness. Its nice to be in that kind of soup for a bit and not have to maintain my individuality and defend my positions and separateness. Wherever and whenever we can find that kind of soupy experience, even if it is fleeting, we should soak it up and try to find our way back to it whenever we are able. In the moment you are there, part of the organism, the world appears kinder- mostly because you will be kinder- and resting in that kindness is immensely healing. I have been on much visually nicer beaches in my life. The landscape in NJ is not as picturesque as some, but this unity can be found anywhere if we go looking for it. We don't need to travel far and pay a lot of money to experience the essence of beauty even in a less than perfect backdrop. Just like we can be in the most talked about, written about and most expensive locale and still feel our usual excluded and seperate self.
The beach may not be your place. Maybe you already know where your place is! Go visit it. It doenst' have to be the exact place of course. My childhood was spent on Rockaway and Jones beach. It wasn't until I was an adult that I visited the Jersey Shore. The fried clams and tar shampoo may no longer be a part of the experience so many years later, but you may just find that the kind of location that holds your sweet childhood memories can offer you an adult perspective that, combined with your wiser gaze will serve the place in you that longs for joy and healing.