“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
“It will be like we’re on vacation!” my husband proclaims as we scroll through photos at the kitchen table, our dinner plates pushed aside, laptop front and center. An upcoming home remodeling project was forcing us to find temporary housing away from the construction zone, and after weeks of searching, we had landed on an intriguing prospect. Short-term. Furnished. Pet friendly. One block from the beach. Suddenly the thought of packing up our kitchen ware and draping furniture in yards of dust-proof plastic didn’t seem so daunting, with the prize of a Pacific view dangling in the distance.
Beach rentals in San Diego aren’t easy to come by during the high season, but by the end of summer, places begin to open up and prices go down. Ironically, fall is one of the loveliest times of the year to visit Southern California. The days are warm, nights cool down, beaches are less crowded and there’s a subtle shift in the air.
We settle in surprisingly quickly. Herb sets up his office at the back of the bedroom in a niche that at one time must have served as a porch or balcony. We turn a folding table from the closet into a desk for me, positioning it in a windowed corner of the living room. We unpack our clothes and the few things we’ve brought for the kitchen. For the next few months, we are home.
We try to keep to a routine, just as we do when traveling. The difference now is that our early morning walks are rimmed by the Pacific. Most mornings are foggy, misty, moody. Grays that lingeringly melt into blues. It’s such an idyllic time of day that you can almost hear the quiet.
The beach weaves in and out of view as we pass through neighborhoods, trading pathways for sidewalks, streets and alleyways, the sand slipping between the pavement and the treads of our shoes. Always the sand. I notice the beach-themed decorations. Dolphins on lampposts. Seahorses on buildings. Sunbursts on gates. Nowhere, it seems, do people adorn their houses the way they do at the beach.
On weekends, the quiet dissolves early. A man and woman dressed in non-beach attire set up a display at the edge of the grass, selling what appears to be conversation and salvation. A group of teenagers gathers for surf lessons; families claim their spots with folding chairs, colorful umbrellas and coolers; walkers and cyclists pause to take in the view.
September weekdays, however, are more like extensions of the early morning. The quiet continues, with the soothing sound of surf the loudest voice in the room. The beach is dotted with a few small groups, not empty, but far from crowded. I think to myself that this is what Ferdinand Magellan must have had in mind when he named the vast body of water Pacífico…Portuguese for peaceful.
Evenings after dinner, we make our way down the packed-sand path to the edge of earth that marks the boundary between land and sea. We are never alone. Neighbors walk the short distance from their homes, sometimes carrying glasses, as if to toast the end of the day. “Beautiful evening,” someone says. We nod and smile. There really isn’t much to say, yet there is everything to say.
“Will we ever grow tired of this?” I ask Herb, as we watch the sun fade over the Pacific. He doesn’t answer, knowing my question is a rhetorical one. Instead, he grabs my hand, and we stand in almost sacred silence until the final sliver of sun has disappeared. This daily occurrence has us wrapped in its wonder, no matter how many times we’ve witnessed it, no matter where in the world we have watched it.
Live every day as if you were on vacation, this time at the edge of the Pacific keeps telling me. As if you were a traveler passing through. Notice. Appreciate. Take it all in. I realize the “drink in every drop” theme on the blog’s About page isn’t just about travel. It’s about living. I’ve known that all along, but like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I needed to click my sand-filled heels to remind me.