Here is a stretch of pure white sand. There is no one else here, just me, on this beach of pure white sand. It is, perhaps, just a wee bit too early for other walkers. Or am I the first one who has ever walked here? What a fancy! But that is how it feels. I have taken a few minutes to walk here by myself before the holiday chaos begins – a little meditation time.
There are no other footprints apart from those of the birds. There are a few silver gulls, for once not squabbling amongst themselves as they often do, and a bevy of sooty oyster catchers, who sometimes scurry along as though they are being chased by tumbleweeds. My own footprints tag along behind me. They make deep hollows where the sand is smooth and malleable as silk, soft runaway slightly sun-warmed sand. These treads disappear quite quickly, sucked back into the earth – trickle, trickle down flows the sand back over where I have walked until only a slight disturbance can be seen, a small pitted indentation.
As I move down to the ocean’s edge, my footprints gradually gather stability as the sand becomes damper and dun coloured. Finally, there is a firmness to them, each curve outlined, each toe discernible. No one else can claim these footprints. They are mine, firm in the damp sand. Closer to the ocean, where the sand becomes a camel coloured hue, my footprints fade in the gently lapping tidal water. The sea is still a bit chilly. On the faraway horizon the point where sea and sky meet is, today, ill defined. The blue on blue is almost indistinguishable and a faint shimmering heat haze is already beginning to tremble, distorting this line. There are no clouds. The sun owns the sky. Today will be very warm, a good day for the beach.
She claims everything, the sea. If you build a sandcastle, she will finally claim it. She will eat it and swish her lips for more. Please do not forget your towel, a shoe, a spade or, heaven forbid, a favourite book! Anything at all that you forget, she will take for her own. On calm days this is a gradual possessing, little lick, licks. She will sniff, sniff around the forgotten like a dog wary of a stranger’s treat, getting closer and closer until finally she accepts the offering then, GULP! There you are – gone!
Just so with a footprint in the sand. Eventually an incoming tide will have mine, covering my tracks with a swill of water and sand. So that I might begin to wonder if I had walked there at all and, if not, how did I get there? But then, noticing my footprints in the firm sand out of reach of the sea’s still approaching tidal lips, I will realise that I had not been dreaming. I did walk there after all. What silly fancies I have sometimes!
But today the tide is an ebb tide and it is calm. It is a silver sand beach with an untroubled whispering, ebbing ocean – tiny little whispers of waves, or wavelets maybe is a suitable word for the water today. I like whispers, little whispers leaving frown lines on the beach where the water whispers in until, tired of whispering in, the ocean takes a little breath back a bit. Then in she flows, breathing out to whisper and build another frown of sand until, eventually, the beach is marked by continuous frown lines to show that the day has been calm with sea and tide, the ocean is only singing little whisperings and not being noisy and crass.
On stormy days, when the tide returns, cross and crass, she will bang and crash into everything. She will dash the driftwood and sea weed ashore in large heaps as if to say "Take it! Take it all ——– BACK! Have it all ——– BACK!" She will charge ashore with flotsam and jetsam (including your forgotten treasures perhaps), with a TISH and a TOSH, before rushing back recklessly to find some more of her unwanted.
But not today thankfully. Today the sea is just full of little whisperings and she only nibbles neatly at my footprints until finally they disappear. Now the sun is fully awake and the beach is warming up. The sea will soon be warmer. There are people arriving to pick a good spot for the day ahead. There is the gladsome noise of children. A dog is barking. There are kites to fly if the wind picks up, cricket to play, buckets and spades for sandcastle building and picnics to eat. There is the smell of suntan lotion and mosquito repellent. There is my family marking off our spot. My husband waves, breaking into my musings.
I had been marvelling as I walked along this sandy beach at the wonder of my footprints being chewed on slowly by the sea because of a whim of the moon.
Now it’s time for family fun. I wave back.