"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wild Ocean

The stormy morning sea
I experienced the ocean in a new way this weekend.

It is November, and I hadn't been to the beach at all yet this year.  That has never happened before.  I grew up going to Virginia Beach each summer to visit the Italian side of my family.  As I got older and didn't always go on the family trip, I still made it to the water somehow, at least for a day, often with friends.  This year, I spent most of the summer tramping around the mountains out west, and just never made it to either coast.

I didn't think that this would be a problem.  I'm not really a beach person, per se.  I've always hated sand (ugh, the invasive, interminable, everywhere-sand) and truth be told, I'm not that crazy about swimming where snappy, bite-y creatures live.  I get cranky when I get too hot, and I really just don't jive with boardwalk culture.  So as the summer was coming to a close and I realized that I may live through my first year ever without seeing the ocean, I thought, meh. Oh well.

Then I got invited to a friend's beach house with a few other friends.  And one doesn't just turn down an invitation to a free beach house, even if one doesn't like sand.

So I spent the weekend in Sandbridge, a private beach in Virginia Beach, VA.  We braved the wild wind and stormy skies the first morning to attempt to watch a sunrise.  It was too cloudy to see the sun, but still a worthwhile experience.

Yes, those are cowboy boots and pajamas.  What of it?

There was an amazing phenomena happening that none of us had ever seen before, including the woman at whose house we were staying.  As the crazy waves came violently in to shore, the foam lifted off the top of each wave and blew across the sand, staying on dry land as the water receded back underneath it.  This left miles of shore covered in other-wordly looking, quivering foam.

Shores of foam
As I ran onto shore when we first arrived, I stopped in my tracks as I approached it.  The foam gets quickly covered in sand, which means that the ground basically looks to be a trembling, gelatinous mass, and I wasn't quite sure whether I could walk on it or not.  Turned out I could.

Even more fun than our morning field trip to the shore was our night walk.  Four of us left the house after a lazy day inside playing games, drinking tea, and stuffing our faces, for a walk on the beach in the dark.

Footprints in the sand
Beach-walking ghosts
As we walked and talked and listened to the roar of the waves, I felt a pull towards the water.  It felt silly and wasteful to be walking on the beach without being in the water.  I was wearing my five-finger shoes, but was fully clothed in cotton leggings and a skirt.  I stepped tentatively to the edge where the incoming waves are so thin they are barely noticeable on the sand.  The water felt so alive against my ankles.  I wanted more.  I ran straight into the water, skirt and all, and let the waves pummel me while I laughed out loud and yelled into the expansive darkness before me.

Building up the courage to go further. . . 
The water just kissing the bottom of my skirt. . . 
Even further. . .
Running into the cold water like a mad woman

The long walk back was a bit cold, it being November and I being soaking wet and all.  But I liked the way that my heavy, wet skirt slapped and clung to my legs, and the way my toe-shoes slurped in the cool sand.  

Something felt very strange and wild about being at the beach in the late fall.  I've only ever been here in the summer.  I guess, in a way, I was surprised to see that the ocean was still here.  In fact, not only was the ocean still here, but the crowds and scalding sun were noticeably absent.  It was the perfect, wild beach weekend for this non-beach-going girl.

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