Friday, July 31, 2009

Beauty in the Granite Sky

It started out as a muggy, hot and humid day. I was stuck inside with work to do on my computer while waiting for my cable modem to be installed. The kids were tremendously patient, having a ball making mud pies in the backyard. My eldest one was away for the weekend and they were hoping to do something exciting to make her jealous.

“Can we go to the beach?” they asked me repeatedly.

“Maybe…we’ll see…let’s see when the guy gets here and how the weather looks…”

I looked at the newspaper and secretly planned to take them to the movies at 3:20. That time came and went and the installation was still not done. I grabbed my Flannery O’Connor book and sat on the couch, fighting sleep because I hadn’t slept well the night before.

Finally, at 4:30 I was free to leave the house. I looked up at the sky. There were dark grey clouds in one direction. If I drove in the opposite direction I might be able to beat the storm to Smith Point Beach.

“Okay everyone,” I finally declared, “If you want to go to the beach get your suits on and meet me in the car in five minutes.”

It’s amazing how fast kids can get something done when properly motivated.

We drove all the way down William Floyd Parkway. It was remarkable how different the blue sky in front of me looked in comparison with the darkness in my rear-view mirror. By the time we crossed the bridge, the grey was right on the other side of the bridge from the beach.

We walked through the tunnel as the lifeguards were clearing the water. People were leaving in droves, giving us odd looks as we walked in the opposite direction. As we walked onto the beach, the darkness completely covered us. We had traveled light (carrying nothing but cell phone, keys and glasses) and were prepared to run to the tunnel if there was thunder or lightning.

As the ocean came into view, we were struck with awe. The waves were huge in the blue-black water. The huge, billowing granite clouds came almost down to the water, leaving a strip of blue directly over the water as we looked straight ahead. To our sides, light grey came all the way down to the ocean.

“Maybe it will blow over,” suggested my ever-optimistic ten-year-old who has an uncanny tendency to be correct.

“Somehow I doubt that, but it was definitely worth coming just to see this. Too bad I didn’t bring my camera.” I checked the time on my cell phone. 5:05. We’d probably be out of there by 5:15.

The kids climbed on top of a mound of sand. “You stay on top of there,” I warned my three-year-old. I could see the force of the rip tide. Ever daring, she tried to step off. “The ocean wants to take you away,” I said jokingly but meaning it quite seriously, knowing with her personality this comment wouldn’t scare her but give her a healthy respect of the ocean, “Do you want to go out there or stay here with your Mommy?”
She gave me a smile and a hug that meant, “Definitely here with you, although that sure looks fascinating.”

“Too bad you didn’t bring your camera,” my daughter said.

“You should write about this on your blog,” said my son.

“Well, sometimes it is good just to take in a scene and store it in your memory. I can definitely describe this in words,” I promised.

At 5:15 it started to rain, lightly. The few families around us left. Apart from a few surfers, we were alone on the beach. “Let’s go,” I said. I turned around and saw that the shades of grey were lightening, letting in bits of blue. “Or maybe not. Let’s see what happens.”

By 5:25 it had stopped raining and the sun was making its entrance through a hole in the clouds behind us. The blackness in front of us had turned to dark blue. The waves became calmer and I allowed the kids to put their feet in. “Just your feet, if you get your clothes wet we’ll never do this again.”

I tucked my ten-year-old’s glasses into my shirt for safe keeping. Last time we came at night she lost them under a wave and these were a replacement pair. I had made the same threat last time, but this is one that they know I don’t follow through on. I held onto both my three-year-old hands and kept vigilant watch that the eight- and ten-year-olds didn’t go past their knees. I hoped I wouldn’t drop my daughter’s glasses myself.

Now the sky above us was such a pretty pattern of changing blues and whispy white clouds. I hated that we would have to leave soon, but we still had to shower, eat dinner, and get to the library.

At 5:45 we went up to the boardwalk to clean off. The showers were too cold, so I washed the little one’s feet and shoes (as well as my own) in the warm water fountain. We had forgotten to take towels, so we got into the leather seats of the car as we were.

On the way back, we re-entered a uniform grey mist. The rain increased as we came closer to our house.

We’d salvaged a little beauty from what most would call a really crummy day.

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