For five days I have been a Honey Badger’s stone-throw from the Atlantic, due east of me about a block. My parents, upon retiring, bought a modest condominium on a barrier island here known as the Treasure Coast in 1981. After my father died, a condo in the neighboring complex looked a little better to my mom so she moved—basically over the fence. I was eighteen years old when I first visited, and while those trips were few and far between in the leanest years when my daughters were young, I am finding myself here with more frequency now.
Previous visits have taught me to pay attention to the schedule of the sunrise, and to arrive at the beach an hour prior if possible for the full unfolding from star-view-black to grey-blue to Technicolor brilliance. Occasionally I am on top of things enough to note beforehand when a full moon rise is on the docket, and have pulled others to the edge of the continent with me at sunset to watch it lift up at the sea-level horizon. With skin starved for Vitamin D, I scan the forecast for highs and lows and plan activities accordingly, ready for all that my iced streets and sidewalks back home might prevent. So I am not new to researching meteorological events in this neighborhood.
I was aware of the tides in what I would describe as a background way. I knew one could find out when low and high tide would be happening, and that surfers and others who depend on the tide for their activities, like shell collectors, paid attention. But my own wanderings down to and along the sand strip never required me to know, so I would find out where the water level was by crossing over the dune, and discover whether it was heading in or out by getting my feet and legs drenched. I was a visitor, with a visitor’s ways. My life is undergoing change, and as a result I am here for a month this time. I count myself among the luckiest people on the planet to be getting this time with my mom and other dear ones, and the longer time frame also allows me to have a different relationship with my environment. I borrowed a bike, showed up at a local self-help group, found a natural food grocery, and have been down to the beach every day.
Inspired by my friends who have walked or are soon walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (Way of St James) in northern Spain, I have been captivated by the idea of long walks. What would it be like to pack a knapsack and walk the beach all day? I arrived in winter weight, in no shape to walk for hours on end, but I have a month. Maybe I could work my way up. So for five days I have been walking the shore, an hour or more at a time, sometimes twice a day. To do so with any effectiveness I need to do it around low tide.
Enter smart phone and tide schedule, and my days began to revolve around the water level. When low tide and sunrise coincide, there’s not much better walking in the world. Hard, wet sand that is nearly level glimmers pink and blue in the pre-dawn light, and the other human visitors are serious (runners) or quiet (meditators) who might or might not nod at your existence as you pass. Each step is its own thing, sinking a bit more at the heel in this step, avoiding a bright blue stranded jellyfish in the next, bending to confiscate a tangle of fishing line a little further down. My calves are hurting, but every other thing I might have considered a problem has dissolved in the wash of salt water. When is low tide today? I’m heading out.