Posted by: deadmousediaries | February 12, 2010

Longing for the Beach – a Winter break with Mitchell Kyd

   Why is it that February is the longest month but has the fewest days on the calendar?  The promise of the holidays is far behind us and spring seems so far out of reach that not even the snowdrops have dared yet to make an appearance.  Winter lost its lustre for me weeks ago and I am already anxious for long, lazy days in the sun. 

   In the midst of this dreary season of anticipation, I dug out an old journal to take an afternoon vacation walk on the beach.  It’s a day I enjoyed alone but you are welcome to join me as I revisit today.  I hope you enjoy!

   It’s Thursday, the second day of my vacation at the beach and the weatherman has smiled on us today. Yesterday the sky and sea turned gray and blended into one, erasing the horizon. Before the rain, the sand was baked dry and burned my feet. Today it’s pale, fresh concrete and holds the perfectly formed footprints of the runners and the walkers who have beaten me to the water’s edge.

   The storm has laid down a dividing line, a long and winding crush of shells stranded now by low tide. The swimmers pick their way across this shoreline boundary; the tanners choose their spots without crossing. I’m alone while my family sleeps and I settle my chair in the no-man’s land of the debris and turn my face to the sun.

   As the morning unfolds, I watch the treasure hunters pass by me like a time-lapse photo image. I see them turn trained eyes on the bread crumb trail of brittle bits that leads shell seekers down the beach. They rarely pause to really investigate but sometimes snatch up an unbroken trophy before marching forward in their quest. I sit still and scoop up a small handful of the crumble and am content with the joy of seeking, not just finding, and I am rewarded over and over again.

   Tiny, perfect shells emerge from the seeming rubble in my palm and I take time to wonder about their safe passage. What force or fate determined they would survive their journey through the storm? More miracles reveal themselves when broken shells recount creation and display the delicate windings and turnings of their internal geometrics. I bend to collect another handful and colored pebbles catch my eye. They are as translucent as the beach glass that joins my collection.

   Some shells have lost their color and crisp veneer over time and the trophy hunters find them lacking. I study these, too, and determine that their cracks and lines are clues to secret stories. There is an understated beauty in the old ones, battered by countless runs against the ocean’s grit. Was their color claimed by years or miles? They wear their lack of hue as a color they’ve grown into and are distinguished from the others by this seamless badge of pluck and sheer endurance.

   I never leave my beach chair but return again and again to the intricate canvas at my feet. At my back, my sunning neighbors must find it strange that I choose to sit so long and so intently in the dangerous crossing zone that guarantees to cut my feet. In front, the swimmers have long since disregarded me.

  I realize time has passed when I am joined by my children. They crunch their way across the path I made and I hold up my morning’s work for their review. I enjoy their polite amusement and then revel in their wonderment as they examine my finds more closely. Their presence fills my heart but the spell has now been broken. I turn to other satisfactions as the lazy days dance away.

   Saturday, the last full day of our vacation and we sit together among packed bags and sort through our beach collections. Glorious moments are recalled but in the artificial hotel light, we, too, are nearly seduced into becoming trophy hunters. Without the glint of sunlight and wet lacquer of the sea, some shells we chose for character blend into a cluttered background as we pick and choose our “keepers.” At the last second, we close the box to keep them all.

Postscript: Back home, months have passed since our beach vacation and the world has turned cold and the days grow shorter. My daughter opens up our ocean box this snowy night and the sun spills out again. I feel it radiate. I taste the salt. I hear the gulls. And the magic of summer tumbles out onto my table once again.

Copyright 2010. Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.


  1. What a wonderful evocation of summer – just what we need after the “snowpocalypse”!

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