Just an hour on the beach, in the sand, without my shoes, standing in a wash of “pretty rocks,” as a little girl in her blue swimsuit called them as she reached to grab tiny stones and bits of shell, polished, blue and red and slivers of polished green glass. Each wave lapping up and over, exposing new treasures to glisten in the sunlight, the water rushing in with each tide to create that scouring bubbly music of pebbles and foam on wet sand.
Just an hour—yet that time settled my soul.
Connecting with three—seeing UN-masked faces—first the musician strolling slowly down the beach with a gait that said he had nowhere in particular to go. He was just walking in the sun, feet in the sand with his ukulele, water bottle dangling from his belt, carefree as the breeze tousled his brown curly hair. I see him strumming but hear no sound, so I cup my ear and give the “can’t hear” motion and smiling a broad grin, his fingers pick the strings, playing a little tune as he ambles by, down the beach.
Next, the pretty young woman in a black two-piece and straw hat with her lavender-tent umbrella and her big fluffy Husky who is intent on digging a hole beneath the umbrella—big paws down in the sand, digging deeper to find coolness, flinging sand up and over the edge to make it big enough and deep enough for his body to fit; his straw-hatted owner bends down, helping him dig until he sits proudly, big sandy paws resting on the ledge above. I take a photo and go over to show her; she smiles a lovely smile behind dark glasses, under her hat, and again, I see a smile, a face, UN-masked and I feel the connection, the human smile, telling me how they’d come so their dog, Javier, could “be cool” because in Oakland where it has been overly hot—in the 90’s—for late October. They have no A/C. Her lovely smile, radiating warmth and kindness, gratitude for me taking an interest, taking a photo, gratitude for this amazing beach day.
Lastly, the older masculine woman in her torn, patched jeans, long sleeved shirt and hat—behind a mask—who asks me, “What’re you lookin’ for?” as I stand peering into the abundance of “pretty rocks” searching for just the right shape or color, something unique, the perfect little black stone with a crisscross pattern of white or a brick red oval, smooth as glass, so many treasures. I say, “just the right rock.” She tells me there haven’t been rocks on the beach for a long time, that this is the first time in weeks and I am even more grateful. She holds, palm flat, a smooth white stone, and says, “looks almost like a heart,” as she drops it in the pocket of her jeans. “I’m always pickin’ up rocks,” she says, nodding a common interest behind her mask as she walks slowly away down the beach. Clearly a local.
And then, it was time to go—back down the beach, we headed to the car, no more time to spend today, that hour, the time with feet in wet sand, standing on smooth stones—pretty rocks—in my pocket, smiling still to myself thinking of Javier sitting proudly in the hole he’d dug, beneath his lavender umbrella.