I can remember summer days from my childhood when the cicadas announced the temperature with a constant hum that sounded like motors straining in the heat. It was deafening some years and still, because we were young and full of energy we never stopped moving, playing and riding bikes. Summer had a rhythm and it varied little from year to year. We were always in constant motion.
It was my grandmother who told us when the temperature rose above 90 F to put water on our wrists to cool down. That was back in a time when even considering buying water was an outlandish thought. We drank from public water fountains, which in the local parks tasted like rust and stagnation. The trick of putting water on our wrists or even a damp handkerchief behind our necks did seem to cool us down. I use the word seemed because in the past few weeks there has been a heat wave and no measure of water on the wrists or behind the neck helps. I don’t know in the end if it was just the thought of the water that cooled us down or if it actually did. I keep trying the trick now to no avail. It is hot!
This has been the summer of spontaneous outings. The beach is my goal and I’ve traveled 2 ½ hours up the coast of Connecticut to meet up with Colleen for a sunset dinner at Hammonasset State Park. Just last Friday, I picked up my friend Julia and headed out to Riis Park in Queens. It’s a mere 45 minutes from Manhattan and has the added bonus of a clock on the beach, which fascinates me. I had discovered the clock years ago and had always wanted to go back to capture it with my Polaroid.
Julia travels light with a towel, a cover to go over the towel and sunglasses. It takes her 2 seconds to set up her spot and then she jumps in the water. I bring a large purple umbrella, a cooler filled with beverages and food, utensils, plates, a large tablecloth for sitting, towel, magazines, a SunGard shirt and cameras. I need a good half hour to settle in. We are well matched as friends because we never seem to run out of conversation. She does not seem to mind that I come with so much baggage and I mean that in the literal sense. We had a sunset dinner of gazpacho soup and peaches from the farmers market. Gulls flew overhead screeching out to each other and their calls were like music to my ears helping me unwind from the week.
My grandmother had always believed the sea to be healing. I don’t disagree. Julia is going through a bad divorce and I am sifting through the wounds the year 2010 inflicted. We both agree that a few hours of listening to waves crashing against the shore and salty air on our skin has wondrous effects on our well-being.