Updated: Dec 8, 2018
As I drive up over the crest and start down the long hill, my pulse quickens at the the sight of the sun-brightened waves. Calm or choppy, sunny or overcast, it doesn't matter – its like going to meet
a long lost friend. We meet here as often as possible, me and Rio Del Mar Beach.
Along with shimmering pool tides full of hidden sea treasures, an expansive playground of sand graces the entrance to the beach. My walk starts right, just past a small brown building with a red-tiled roof, toward the cliffs of Capitola. Small beach rocks upon which some anonymous angel has written inspirational messages are scattered along the mile long walking path. It pleases me when I find the first one in the hollow of the driftwood log that marks the start of my walk. Written in fine black marker, the messages change almost daily. Some people like them and take them. I like most of them, but I only take pictures of them.
A quaint visitor’s center is at the half-mile mark. It holds the answers to my questions about a big cement ship that sits permanently moored at the end of long pier jutting out into the bay. Its a fascinating sight; one that people have marveled over for decades. Swarms of pelicans and scrappy sea gulls compete for resting space on the ship’s helm when the tide brings an abundance of sea food. When the ocean is choppy with whitecaps and the morning is gray, the ship stands stark, alone. And when the sun beats down hard, one can clearly see the cracks in the cement where the speckles of light off the waves shoot through sharp, bright. I like this half way mark for its cool benches where I can rest for a few minutes, shaded by a stand of eucalyptus trees. Their delicious scent washes over me on the ocean breeze.
The rest of the first mile takes me past the R.V. camp site of temporary homes adorned with colorful flags, whirligigs, wind socks. Most sites include dog bowls full of water and camp chairs around fire pits made from old washer drums. Collections of shells and rocks from the beach are arranged artfully around picnic tables. The smell of bacon sizzling on fancy gas table top cook stoves, makes my stomach rumble with hunger. Sleepy eyed teens, hair rumbled, stare at their phones while older people scan real newspapers. Swimsuits and wet suits hang from awnings to drip dry.
There are a lot of dogs down at the beach. I’ve never seen one that wasn’t smiling, laughing or sniffing happily. It’s the same with the kids. The wee boys run around bare chested, delighting in their power over the seagulls, sprinting and roaring at them with arms wide open. The little girls squeal at the waves, at their friends, at the air. They love to scream. Its so fun. The kids make forts out of driftwood. Today, I saw a bunch of them improvising a see-saw out of a thick log and a board. Jaylin would have loved that; figuring out the physics, pushing and pulling the board to get it to the perfect balancing point, laughing and arguing with the other kids. He used to like going to the beach with me. He still talks about the time we stood in the tide break and named each wave as it splashed up on us. I miss him.
Working out my “stuff”- walking with music keeps me sane. I listen to my favorite songs on a little IPOD shuffle that I keep clipped to my tee shirt. Mom loved music. One of her favorite sayings was “music washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life”. I have never understood this as much as I do now. Mom would have loved to walk at the beach with me. I miss her. I like coming here. It is as if my soul knows this ocean. It pulls me. It propels me. It draws me in. It lets me go. There is a constant gracefulness and generosity in the way the beach moves me down its path and keeps me going back.
I wrote this essay in April, 2014 when I was in La Selva Beach where my sister and sister-in-law generously offered me space until I could recover from a gigantic set back in my life. Rio Del Mar Beach is where I mourned my Mom's passing. Its the place where I worked out all that had gone wrong in my relationship that had just ended. Its a place of peace. Of comfort. When I look at these pictures, I think about the part this beach walk played in my ability to get back up, brush myself off, and keep on going. And I miss my old friend - Rio Del Mar Beach.