When one thinks of the beach, they think of lazy days frolicking in the surf, sand and sun. They think of sand castles, waves, dolphins, sunsets and Margaritas. They conjure visions of bikinis, colorful beach umbrellas and the aromas of suntan oil emitting fragrances of coconuts and exotic flowers. When one thinks of the beach, they think of youth, vacation time, blue skies, pelicans with beaks full of fish and the shrill cries of seagulls.
The beach evokes a kind of hypnotic magic on the human mind. Tiki torches reflecting fire on wet sand, strains of beach music playing the chorus with the cavorting surf, the way the sun seems to melt onto the waters as it sits for a moment before disappearing. The scent of salt and sea and the feeling of standing on the edge of the Time leaves one feeling small and insignificant while watching the stars come down low and splendiferous. The vastness of Life suddenly becomes profoundly poignant.
This may be difficult to believe, but the beach isn’t always about suntans and bikinis. Beaches, empty of humanity, are most entrancing and extraordinary. Sometimes beaches are about full moons and a sky full of lustrous shimmering stars. After the sun has set and doors to other worlds are opening, when all the beach umbrellas are gone and the screeching childish laughter dissipates, when the scent of suntan oil floats away on the tails of the breezes, the beach becomes a nocturnal rhapsody.
At night, on the beach, it’s very difficult to see where the sky and waters kiss. The horizon disappears and leaves the illusion we stand on the edge of the world while the waters of Time lap at our feet. Looking into the waters one may be blessed to witness glittery phosphorescence dance in the surf, short intense sparkles, like miniature lightening. Looking into the indigo sky one may be mystically aroused when witnessing the majestic heavens spiral above the sapphire sea. Looking out onto the waters of the sea one believes they finally sense what eternity means.
My husband, Stu, and I are vociferous beach lovers. We have explored many miles of Floridian west coast beaches at all hours of the day and night. Some of our most memorable moments on the beach have been long after the sun has wakened the other side of the world.
One evening after the duties of the day were done and the moon was full and high we decided to take a lush merlot to the beach and watch the stars for a while. In the summers when the long, lazy days are hot and humid, evenings on the beach are usually cool and breezy. This evening was no exception. We packed the usual beach blanket, pillows, flashlight, a small cooler holding the wine in ice and glasses and off we went.
The drive to the beach from our home is measured in the minutes. We live close enough to smell the salt tang on the air at times. Seagulls roost on our barrel tile roof often enough to warrant them as pesky critters. One of the most scenic areas of the drive to the beach is crossing the bridge that spans the harbor.
During the height of the day when reaching the crest of the bridge, the aquamarine Gulf of Mexico spreads out before us as the sun sprinkles diamond dust over the waters, blinding us. Sails boasting colors of every brilliant hue with kaleidoscope reflections etched on every wave. It’s a dramatic, stunning vision.
During the night, when reaching the crest of the bridge, the expanse of sailboats at their moorings all around the harbor, with their lights creating halos in the night air and reflecting off the dark Gulf waters is an enchanting, surrealistic scene. On this particular evening drive over the bridge the beauty of the unearthly boat lights shimmering streaks over the indigo waters was just as entrancing.
Reaching the beach in high spirits, I grabbed the blanket and pillows, leaving the cooler with the wine and glasses for Stu to carry and I started at a sprint across the sand. I’m nearly at the water when I realized there’s something surrealistic about the beach. It seemed as though the sand, illuminated by the bright moon, was moving. I stopped running and looked around me and my blood turned to ice water as I realized why the sand appeared to be moving.
The beach appeared to be moving because it was moving with thousands upon thousands of Fiddler crabs, those odd looking crabs who run sideways threatening anything that come near them with their single large claw. This phenomenon may not seem so traumatic to many people, but the key to this fright sight is a little problem I have called arachnophobia. The fear of spiders.
Fiddler crabs look like mutated spiders, aliens from an undiscovered planet. I froze on the spot like an upright rebar standing in hardened concrete. I became a petrified statue with a blanket and two fluffy pillows under my arms while the crabs clicked and clackedclackedclacked their claws, zig-zagging all around me. I was so glad the seagulls were sleeping. I didn’t need bird poopoo splatting on my head with thousands of mutated spiders waving lethal clippers about my feet.
It seemed to take my darling husband eons while whole galaxies exploded into existence, entire nations were developed and destroyed, before he reached me, picked me up, threw me over his shoulder and trotted back the way we came, pillows and blanket dragging in the sand behind us teasing those abominable crabs.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (In F)
(A Little Bit of Night Music, W.A. Mozart)
Not all fascinating phenomenon becomes terrifying and some terrifying phenomenon becomes fascinating such as what occurred during another magical evening at the beach. On this particular evening at the beach, Stu and I had been there for some time as we came to watch the sun melt her colors on the waters before she gave her light to the night. We’d decided before we drove over the bridge that spans the sparkling, cerulean harbor that we were going to stay until the moon rose out of the water, so we had our beach gear, a couple of books, camera, wine and our excitement in anticipating another spiritually peace filled evening.
If you’ve never witnessed a sunset or a sunrise on the seas, that phenomena should be on your list of events to experience before your heavenly transition. The sun rising or setting on the ocean waters is an ethereal phenomenon that’s been occurring since the Gods snapped their fingers and an event humanity has revered since man has stood upright on two feet.
When I lived on the east coast of Florida, I’d walk to the beach to watch the sunrises on the mighty aristocratic Atlantic ocean. Sunrises are sacred events, symbolizing beginnings, births, newness. It’s the most unsullied part of the day, pure and fresh with a generous dash of anticipation. Watching the grey ocean waters give birth to the new vibrant morning sun as she paints her colors across the skies is a most enchanting, profound experience and one very much worth making a routine of waking earlier than usual to witness.
Living on the west coast of Florida offers such spectacular sunsets that many people revolve their evening schedules, dinners and outings to accommodate witnessing the heavenly phenomena. People come to the beaches and stand in twos and groups with the occasional loner leaning against the boardwalk’s balustrade or huddled down in their beach chair, all facing the same direction, toward the setting sun. Sunsets, too, are sacred events, symbolizing endings while other doors open as she sends her flames across the horizon while slipping beneath the waters. There is something mystical and entrancing about sunsets. Romantic and hypnotic, there have been many a proposal on the beach while the sun bathes the world in a rosy glow and many an erotic moment after giving her light to the night.
This particular evening was just as romantic and entrancing. Stu and I popped the cork on our wine as we watched the sun boldly dance her colors across the horizon before dropping beneath the surface. Night came on gently on the back of a salty zephyr. Stars winking and twinkling over our heads all the way to the end of the world. The waters slowly turned from rosy purple at the horizon to deep pearlescent green to frothy, foamy white at our feet.
We moved our chairs and blanket back from the edge of the surf and decided to just lay back on the blanket and watch the heavens. If you’ve ever studied the night skies while laying back on the grass, or the sand, I’m sure you’ve noticed that stars are not necessarily yellow dots against a black background. Some stars pulsate red. Some glimmer gold. Some glow green. All are beautiful in their individual-ness and as an intricate celestial design. The Milky Way, with its myriad colored stars and galaxies taking up most of the night sky, the constellations that resemble anything but what they’re supposed to be, shooting stars arcing low on the horizon with the rhythmic, hypnotic soulbeat of the surf humming beach tunes can make for a spiritually erotic atmosphere. Especially while sipping a lush merlot with the one you love.
After it had been dark for a few hours, the tangy breeze died down and I sat up on my elbows and looked over at Stu who seemed to be dozing having been lulled by the wine, the lyrical rhythm of the surf and the hypnotic skies. Then suddenly, nearly right in front of where we were lying, I noticed the delineated line of the surf was altering, changing shape, growing and growing and growing, becoming a huge mound, as though a sea monster was rising up out of the dark Gulf waters, coming toward us. I was rendered speechless, as from my perspective, on my back, up on my elbows, whatever was coming up out of the waters was magnificent and only mere feet away from devouring us and washing us down with our wine!
I nudged Stu to sit up and look! Startled out of his doze he sat up on his elbows and gasped at what was coming towards us, startling us both into upright positions. That gave us a different perspective and we could see this behemothic sea monster was, in fact, a very large mama sea turtle, a Loggerhead, coming up to the beach to lay her precious eggs.
We waited in silence as she unhurriedly hauled her cumbersome body passed us, flipping sand on our blanket while she lumbered up the slight incline of loose sand. When she was behind us, we rose from our blanket and followed at a discreet distance extremely impressed with her massive size. This was one venerable mama who’d been around for awhile. We could have invited any one of you to join us on her back as she rode off into the sunset. It may have taken a while, but we would have had plenty of room to spare. Barnacles, glowing in the dark, covered her huge outer shell. A deep primal ocean scent followed her.
First she dug a body pit for herself with her front flippers and then dug deeper an egg cavity for the eggs. After she was satisfied with the size of the nest, she laid approximately one hundred ping-pong sized eggs and then turned and used her hind flippers to bury them. The entire episode lasted about an hour. When she was done, she turned toward the sea and slowly lumbered back the way she came and gradually slipped beneath the waves, leaving us dazed and breathless with wonder.
Beaches worldwide are known for the stunning women who grace their pristine sands with scantily clad, perfumed oiled bodies. Florida beaches are no different. Some of the most beautiful women in the world sunbathe in various stages of undress on the sands of Florida beaches from Pensacola on the panhandle to Daytona Beach on the northeast coast, to Miami and Key West to the south and our sugar sand beaches are no different.
On one particularly sultry, lazy weekend afternoon in July, Stu and I packed up our beach gear and drove to the azure Gulf waters for a day of play in sun and surf. The beaches were slam packed with weekenders and the neon colors of beach umbrellas made psychedelic designs under the white hot sun as far as the eye could see.
Children were running up and down the beach screeching in laughter chasing frisbees and balls or just for the plain joy of screeching with laughter. Sand castles and sculptures in various stages of completion peppered the beach with neon purple buckets and yellow scoops laying unused nearby. A couple of fathers or big brothers were being buried by youngsters who preferred to stay near the safety of their parents. Older folks strolled the sands looking for that perfect star fish or the mystical sandollar. Thong shrouded bathing beauties, skin slicked with oils, lay baking to a rich bronze on their beach blankets and loungers. The tropical scent of suntan oil wafted under the wings of seagulls who flew in swarms above our heads, screeching in tune with the children. A perfect Norman Rockwell American beach scene.
We quickly set up our beach gear, positioned our chairs on the blanket with the cooler between us and our respective books, magazines and camera within reach. We stripped down to our bathing suits and got comfortable. We planned to stay awhile.
I slicked tanning oil over my skin, laid back and appealed the sun to ravish me. She is an erotic, attentive lover, caressing my skin, weaving brights in my hair with her warm, amorous beams. She seduces me into a stupor and if I am not careful the flame of her passion will consume me.
We hadn’t been there long when we noticed a slight disturbance to our right and saw a group of four young mothers and their respective children setting up their flashy umbrellas and beach gear. There were probably ten children between the ages of two and twelve in jazzy beach dress and these were no ordinary mothers either. These mothers wore brilliantly colored bikinis, neon lime green, startling parrot yellow, shocking fuschia pink and royal peacock blue with vivid orange flowers. The brilliance of their colors, enhanced the depth of their soon to be oiled bronzed skin, screamed to everyone up and down the beach notice me!
I was absolutely fascinated. Looking around me, I noticed there were many people who were discreetly staring at these four young women in their teeny bikinis with deep dark tans. Stu commented as their voices carried over to him that they were German which made me think of the German wine called Liebfraumilch, which translates as young maiden’s milk. Watching these German maidens, I realized they did appear Nordic with their long flaxen tresses and rosy cheeks.
With their many rambunctious children amused with activities according to their ages, the young women decided it was their turn to be ravished by the sun, so they set about oiling their skin, taking turns to do each other’s backs, paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to the distraction they were creating around them. Their only concerns were their children, each other, the sun and their tans. They oiled and oiled and oiled as they threw the oil bottles back and forth, laughing, calling out to their children and jabbering to each other in their own language.
These were no ordinary young women. Each one of them must have weighed at least two hundred and fifty pounds and they were absolutely glorious. Fat goddesses of the rarest kind. Golden, rubenesque, unashamed and downright beautiful. It was their nonchalant, carefree auras that held everyone around them captivated. They were not body conscious in any sense of the meaning. They probably pitied anyone else who was. They were free and it was this freedom that magnified their own abundance of natural beauty. And there was no shortage of beauty between them.
The rest of the time we were at the beach I watched these goddesses care for and play with their children and each other with complete unabashed joy. Their laughter, like crystal wind chimes or short little bursts of flutes, played on the air. Graceful on their tiny, tanned feet they ran up and down the beach chasing after youngsters, pitching a beach ball or running into the surf to cool off. Their bronze, curvaceous voluptuousness quivered and shimmered whenever they moved and laughed.
I will admit to not a tiny bit of envy watching them cavort without restraint throughout the day. I was no where near their size and was no where near their level of personal freedom. Even in my extreme youth, with firm, lean muscles, I wore a maillot to the beach. Bikinis were for intimate sunbathing. What is it that gives a woman, large by society’s standards, such inner confidence that she can wear bikinis to the beach without the fear and shame of ridicule that a woman much smaller in size cannot bring herself to do without instinctively reaching for her beach covering before standing exposed in her two piece for the whole beach to see?
Looking around me I saw there were many very beautiful women sunbathing in various styles of bathing suits, bikinis, two-pieces, thongs and maillots who were all much smaller than these Nordic maidens and yet many were hunched down in their chairs or wore beach coverings or towels around their waists when they got up to walk anywhere and those wearing maillots chose subdued colors that whispered, please don’t notice me. I looked down at my own black maillot and while I’ll probably never wear a bikini at the beach, I was determined to find a colorful maillot the next time. One that wouldn't necessarily scream, notice me, but would conversationally say, I’m working on it.
Deciding to leave after hours of swimming and basking in the sun, Stu and I packed our gear and headed toward the boardwalk. Passing by these voluptuous goddesses I caught the eye of one, her lovely golden face lit up and bursting into fluted laughter, she bestowed upon me a brilliant smile.
Symphony of Minnows
Some days at the beach are lazier than others but none are ever banal or boring. There are always phenomena and events to amuse and amaze at the beach, whether it’s a horde of fiddler crabs, voluptuous goddesses cavorting in the surf, a flock of great blue herons landing ten feet from our beach chairs, a magnificent mama turtle magically appearing out of the waves or a spectacular sunset. The beach always holds treasures, offers unexpected gifts and paints beautiful tapestries of life on land, in the air and from the sea.
Stu and I, slicked down with oils, had been at the beach for a few hours lazing the weekend day away behind our dark sunglasses, sipping fresh lemonade watching the sailboats come and go, the people come and go, the bird life come and go.
Again, as it usually is during the weekend, the sands were dune to dune people. Razzle dazzle umbrellas dotted the beach like psychedelic flowers on acid. Jazzy bathing suits of every description covered bodies of every size, gender and age. Neon brilliant swimming accessories scattered in every space where the umbrellas did not obscure. The scents of coconut oil wafting on strains of beach music in rhythm with the soulbeat of the surf intertwined with laughter of children are the constants of any American beach.
Hot, sultry and languid from basking in the sun Stu and I decided to go for a swim, float on the waves for a while, cool off. The salty Gulf waters felt deliciously cool on our skin as we swam out into deeper waters to float away our cares. We’d been floating for a while when a small fish jumped from the waters over my body to the other side, quickly followed by several more.
Coming out of the float, treading water, I got Stu’s attention. Flying fish? Our question was answered as a magnificent school of minnows swam into our water space. Thousands of pearlescent, three inch minnows were swimming where we tread water. Swirling, twirling in the silver-green waters, these myriad minnows frolicked and danced in spirals, turning and gliding through their aqua world. Hundreds of minnows jumped in and out of the water, up and down, swimming in between our legs under the water, sensually tickling our skin like hundreds of erotic fingers.
Stu and I looked at each other with wondrous delight and amazement. Laughing with glee we splashed each other for a bit, then continued floating our cares away as we had been before. The tiny pearlescent minnows took flying leaps in little sparkly arcs landing on our bellies and chests before sliding off on the other side. Sliding, gliding and swirling through the water, they tickled our backs and legs as they swam en masse against our bodies. After awhile I couldn’t sense the minnows from the caressing waters from the calming zephyrs from the warm sensual sun. We’d all become One.
It was an exquisite, hot, sunny Saturday in August and we decided not to visit our usual haunt but to explore another beach near Sharkey’s, an upscale restaurant/club with a Caribbean flavor boasting the mother of all fishing piers. Sharkey’s was playing jazz and blues outside and Stu wanted to hear the horns on the wind so we found our spot close enough, down wind and set up our umbrellas and beach gear and settled in for a few hours of sensual roasting.
The beach was crowded with the usual bathing beauties slicked in perfumed oils, joyful children splashing in the surf and old folks searching for their perfect shells. The scents at this beach were different than where we usually went. The perfumed coconut melded with the strong aroma of fresh fish and the pungent spicy foods wafting from Sharkey’s Caribbean kitchen.
The sky was a sublime powder blue and the sea, a silver seafoam green. The only imperfection on that unsullied sky was on the distant horizon. A band of low purple clouds rested their burden, casting a long shadow, turning the light green waters to dark hunter green. Sailboats and other water craft dotted the open seas and all was good in the world.
It wasn’t very long before I surrendered to the allure of the sun and allowed her to do with me what she would. She has that effect on my senses at times, softening my resistance like melted butter, stroking my skin with her warm sultry beams, running her long fingers against my eyes teasing, always teasing. I could feel myself gradually sinking into the sand and for a time was aware of nothing but warm sensation and peace.
Eventually, I became aware of activity surrounding me when the cool winds brought the scent of rain, bringing me out of a lazy afternoon doze. Sitting up on my elbows, I looked around and saw people everywhere packing up their beach gear. Out on the Gulf, the band of dark purple clouds on the distant horizon was now mere yards away from the end of Sharkey’s fishing pier. Within fifteen minutes the beach was completely empty except for us and one other person with a red beach towel, a bit further down the beach from where we still sat.
We excitedly decided to ride the storm out under the umbrellas, using the blanket and our towels to protect ourselves from flying sand if need be. While it did look like it could be an intense storm, it didn’t appear to be large enough to last longer than minutes, as the band of storm clouds, while long, appeared quite narrow. We figured ten minutes tops and we’re back in the suntan business with, amazingly, the beach to ourselves. Well, all but for that other person a short distance from us.
We watched the fisher people quickly pack up their fishing gear and run down the length of the pier to leave just as the rain and winds lashed at the end of the pier and quickly traveled up soaking down the weathered wood and anyone still fishing. Then the storm was on the beach battering us. Sand, like thousands of tiny pin pricks, swirled about stinging our heads and arms as the rain beat a mean staccato rhythm on the umbrellas. We pulled the towels around us to keep the sand out of our eyes. Underneath our flimsy protection, we gleefully laughed as the storm gods furiously clashed and warred all around us.
Peeking through the towels we could see the Gulf waters had changed from silver seafoam green to a dark boiling bruise, with waves pounding the shore as thunder’s percussion crashed and boomed with a fury that shook the world. The dark purple clouds were directly above us, completely blocking out the sun, making it seem as though the doors to evening were opening. Lightening cracked across the sky with blue jagged light, flared and glared giving the world a surrealistic glow, leaving the scent of ozone in its wake. I saw a flash of red further down the beach and realized that the other person sharing the beach and the storm with us wasn’t hunkered down under rain soaked towels and beach umbrellas like we were.