This summer, as they always do, people will wax on (and on) about how much they love the beach. The surf: so peaceful and hypnotic. Beer from the cooler: so frosty cold. You can swim or nap or toss the frisbee or lose yourself in a trashy novel. Beachgoers don’t just enjoy these things; they let you know they enjoy these things. But let me tell you, they’re total frauds. Because they still all hate the thing that actually makes a beach a beach.
“Oh, I love the beach, I only hate getting sandy.” Then guess what, asshole? You can pack up that big umbrella — an umbrella you put up thanks to sand — and hit the rocky shores of Maine. Sand is great mineral slabs and boulders worn to a fine, silky marvel. Squeezing a handful is therapy. Plunging a foot into cooler depths is bliss. I volunteer to be buried lying on my back on the beach for the pleasure of its weight on me, the exfoliating delight of shifting around within it. If you’re not getting sandy, are you alive?
When I was a kid, my aunt and uncle had a tank-sized 1980s minivan that fit approximately 20 cousins in it. This was our ride to the beach — the interior coated with sand. There was no point in cleaning it, because it would be sandy again a few hours later. Being in this vehicle meant you were on your way to or from the source of the sand, and so, it was like a taste of the day to come, or a lingering trace of the day you’d just had. The sand connected moments, it traveled, it had a mind of its own. It stuck to us.
Is the adhesiveness of sand not a bewitching magic? It seeks to belong to us, adopt our line and shape, and yet it falls away with grace — a light shake or the brush of hand will do. It loves closely, and it lets go without regret, grateful for the time it had. It is soft and sculptural and even smells amazing. The shower at home is delicious, perhaps, to your salted skin, but I hate to see the sand pulled off, whisked into the mouth of the drain. I’ll wait to wash up last out of all, just to preserve a bit of grit. Sometimes I sleep in it.
Think I’m crazy? Of course you do. I wonder if anyone else feels this way besides dogs. A dog sees the special boundlessness of sand — that it goes on forever in both directions and deeper than you could ever dig, all of it to flop on and roll around in. My little dog Monster would shove her face into the sand and push till she got some up her nose, then sneeze it out in a dazzling display. This made her happy. I understood.
I don’t even mind when sand gets in whatever I’m eating or drinking. This is the sand’s domain, and if it aims to get eaten or drunk, I can oblige without any fuss. Probably consuming a little sand is good for you, or something. Either way, I’m not going to stop. I want to be sandier every time I visit the ocean or a bay. I want to comb fingers through my hair and sense each tiny granule trapped there. I can sift through sand for an afternoon, studying the sheer variation of color. If you find it cliché to say that a beach has a galactic nature, that’s only because it does, in the infinite potential of the sand. It’s the stuff of dream castles, of words and runes drawn with a gnarled stick of driftwood.
I don’t need a blanket to sit on the sands of Malibu. This is what I came for. When I get too hot, I’ll take a dip, and then I’ll sit my wet ass right on the sand. I’ll surrender to it, I swear, just to show it my respect — to prove that someone loves it for its pure and noble design. In the end, the sand protects the world it creates, because the tourists who can’t stand it won’t ever brave its beauty, and they are the type whose company one should avoid. I’m serious! Don’t trust anyone who can’t handle getting sandy. And to be fair, watch out for me when I’m really covered in sand — that’s when I like to give out hugs.