With my body still on east coast time, I woke up at dawn. The sun hadn’t yet appeared over the mountains, so the long beach outside my window was in deep shade. I pulled on some clothes, grabbed my camera, and went out for a walk. It was colder than I had expected. The soft sand I stepped into felt more like snow. It looked like snow, too, the way it was sculpted into shapes by the wind. Waves rolled in, the white foamy crests striking in the early morning light.
I turned north to walk up towards the big rocks that make an arch. I had the whole beach to myself. I didn’t see another person although I did find a sand castle built yesterday and evidence of an evening bonfire. I wandered up the beach, happily taking photos, sometimes wandering in the water to get just the right shot. I didn’t really have enough light yet for good photos, but I didn’t really care. Having a camera in hand just makes me notice how beautiful everything is.
I was glad, as I walked, that I was wearing a warm fleece, and I began to regret the decision to go barefoot. The sensations in my feet were painful at first, and then they began to go numb, so that it was as if I was dragging along these heavy blocks of ice. “As soon as the sun comes across the bluffs, the sand will get warm,” I told myself. I kept looking hopefully over to the string of beach houses to the east. I turned back towards my motel, wondering how far I’d gone. I’d been out for at least an hour.
I knew it was getting later because I saw another person on the sand, a woman walking a dog. I looked enviously at the sneakers and thick socks she was wearing. By then, I was feeling eager to get back to my warm room. Just one problem. None of the buildings along the shore looked familiar. I remembered that the motel was built of weathered grey wood, but that described almost every building I saw. In my wanderings, I’d been so focused on the ocean that I hadn’t looked towards the shore, and nothing I was passing looked familiar. Maybe I’d already passed the motel. My feet were so cold that I probably looked drunk as I stumbled along the cold sand.
Just then, the sun finally crept past over the tallest bluff, sending rays of light across the sand. I saw a sand castle in front of me — the same one I had noticed earlier! That meant I was right near my motel. With relief I stepped onto the sunlit sand. Already, it felt warmer. I sat down in the sand to take a photo of the castle and absorb the sun as it spread across the beach.