Long Shadows

At last. Sitting on the beach, in the sun, watching the waves roll in. I’m wearing shorts and a tank top, lots of SPF 50 sunscreen to avoid getting a rash on my photo-sensitive skin. I won’t be swimming, because the Atlantic is far too cold this early in the season, and the waters off Block Island, R.I., are chilly, and I have ulcers on my fingers that I can’t risk immersing.

But it feels good to be here. Even if the breeze is stiff and I have to pull on extra layers as Sunday afternoon deepens. Even if I can’t swim like I used to as a kid, jumping over the waves and body surfing until I turned blue and my teeth wouldn’t stop chattering.

So I sit in my beach chair and read a novel, do a little of the Sunday New York Times crossword, watch Al swim and dive in the surf. I take a nap and work on my tan (have to be careful with this, not overdo, given skin sensitivity). I wonder why the people next to us on the beach, with very loud voices, don’t realize that everyone within 20 feet, at least, can hear every word of their conversation, including how one of the men and two of his friends each won $500 at a craps table in Montreal and other fascinating details (for them, not for the rest of us).

Fortunately, I’m able to screen out their conversation when I read. And no one really seems to mind. On the beach, on a sunny Sunday, it’s live and let live.

As shadows elongate, we walk up the shore, collecting pebbles and even a few bits of sea glass—unusual for this beach, which is usually picked clean. I sit on a large rock as Al explores farther, my arms wrapped around knees to stay warm in the cool breeze, and watch a dad and his three daughters, all in wet suits, play catch with a pink-and-yellow rubber ball in the surf.

On our walk back, we pass a black-and-white mutt worrying a piece of driftwood, barking at its owners as they play in the water, then barking at the driftwood, then shoving the driftwood around with its nose and barking at it again. Someone has made a terraced sandcastle with smooth, rectangular walls; another has created a castle of sand globs and drizzles.

We eat dinner al fresco, across the road from sand dunes, deep turquoise ocean just visible beyond. We stop for an ice cream cone for Al and poke around the little shops. I find a scarf the color of sunset. We check on the Red Sox v Yankees score as the ferry pulls away from the dock for the hour-long trip back to shore. Our boys are ahead.

The day is a welcome escape from work and responsibility and so much sad and disturbing news in the world. On Monday afternoon, headlines announce the tragic murder of the three Israeli teens who were kidnapped more than two weeks ago, hitching home from school, and I sit at my computer screen and cannot concentrate on my writing. Our sunny, relaxing beach trip seems far away. I grieve for the parents and pray that cooler heads prevail, on both sides of this intractable conflict that could erupt at any moment. No good will come of more bloodshed. I pray that my eldest, Mindi, stays safe as she spends the remainder of her vacation in Tel Aviv.

If only we could all just go to the beach and, together, enjoy the waves, and the sun and a long, relaxing stroll as shadows grow long. Naive, I know. If only.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.


  1. Pat Bizzell says:

    I talked to my daughter in Israel yesterday, and like you, I was struck by the contrast between peaceful summer scene outside my window and our wrenching sadness about the murdered boys. She cruises several news websites and reported bitterly that sympathy seemed to be in short supply, many commentators implying that as long as Israel “occupies” the West Bank, Israelis deserve all they get.

    Needless to say, I disagree. But here and now is not the place to into that.

    I admired the description of the dog on the beach in your latest post.

Speak Your Mind