I’m on the beach in Little Talbot Island, a state park just north of Jacksonville, FL, resting after taking a long walk on the beach, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the snowy owl that is reported to be visiting. Apparently, I’m not the only one seeking warmer weather, although it is fairly unusual for snowy owls to be seen this far south.
The ocean is slate grey today, trimmed with lacy white foam that pushes and tugs relentlessly at the shore. It’s interesting to notice the quality of the sand, because it always varies from beach to beach. Here it is taupe-colored, marbled with an oily black, fine and compact, and scattered with shell fragments that crunch underfoot.
The sky seems to be conflicted today. Moments ago, the sun was bright and inviting to the west, but choked with clouds what weighed on the horizon. Moments later, the sun seemed to be winning out, dissolving the clouds into smalls puffs like slightly damp cotton candy. Then, in a matter of minutes, a dense fog rolled in and covered everything in a ghostly white, while a huge swath of grey sky lifted above the horizon, like a curtain unveiling a bright light where ships could slip through, attracted like moths to the moon.
While the sand might seem different at every beach, the smell is mostly the same – that fresh, salty, damp breeze. Smell is a funny thing; it seems to trigger a million memories at once, or makes you struggle to put your finger on exactly what it reminds you of. In this case, I find myself remembering the summers of my youth spent camping on Cape Cod. I remember how my brother and I would spend hours playing in the ocean and body surfing, not even noticing that we were cold until our lips were purple.
And now, I’m creating new memories. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll smell the ocean and remember this very moment.