I was lucky to grow up on the shores of Sandbridge, a small beach community south of Virginia Beach. Today few empty lots are left in Sandbridge, but when I was little, sand dunes outnumbered houses by far, and the windswept beaches were my favorite playground.
My brothers and I played games like softball and Capture the Flag in the sand. We built forts and went hunting for tadpoles over by Back Bay. My best friend, Wendy, who lived across the street, had a collection of model horses. We loved sitting in the warm sand, sheltered from the wind by a tall dune, and building elaborate barns out of scrap wood, shells, and bits of rope. We’d pretend we were cowgirls living in the Wild West and dream up horsey adventures.
Sometimes Wendy and I would walk on the beach at night under a starry sky. We’d hunt for ghost crabs with our flashlights and watch them scurry back into their holes, instantly vanishing into the sand. The ocean’s waves seemed louder at night, crashing onto the shore, and I remember being awed by the vastness of the Atlantic, stretching far into the blackness until the sea and the night sky became one.
I remember walking on the beach by myself on breezy spring days when there wasn’t a soul in sight. I’d look for shells or throw sticks for my dog. Sometimes I would sing at the top of my lungs. Those walks were a great way to release the stress of my adolescent years.
I loved the outdoors as a child (still do!), and I never minded being alone with my thoughts. Nature continues to inspire me—the sounds and scents of the sea, the different bird species in the air and on the shore, the shells and sand dollars that wash up on the sand—always making me wonder about life and death and the secrets of the deep.
Have you taken your kids to the beach lately to explore sand dunes and night stars? Have you walked along the ocean’s edge and looked for shells? We are so fortunate to live beside the Atlantic Ocean and enjoy its many gifts—seafood, fresh breezes, recreational activities like boating and swimming—but to me, there’s nothing like a walk on the beach.
This month make a date with your kids to go for a walk on the beach—just you and your feet. Leave everything else behind and pay attention to the wind and the waves and the sea creatures you come across. Talk to your child about nature and life and let the conversation—like the wind—go where it will.
Everyone needs a refreshing break from the cacophony of modern life—kids especially. If they’re reluctant to come along, make them come anyway. Once their feet hit the sand, your kids will be glad they came. The modern world will fade away, and you’ll discover a new appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds us every day. We just have to open our eyes and see it.
Peggy Sijswerda • firstname.lastname@example.org