My Dad just sent me this awesome photo of himself (center, brown trunks) and our family friends Lee (left) and Joe (right) on Bellows Beach the summer I turned nine.
What a flood of memories this brings back.
I can feel the warm breeze coming off the water and hear the soothing crash of the waves. We had a flood of wonderful visitors that summer, and we spent nearly every weekend with them at Bellows. I'd race into the water (careful where the bottom dips down!) and dive under the oncoming waves, tasting salt, my long, frizzy hair turning into a smooth flow behind me.
I grew up swimming. At age three I was diving 15 feet down in our school pool to fetch rocks off the bottom. But Bellows was different. The waves were friendly, sure, but unpredictable. You had to stay on your toes, keep an eye on the horizon, and be careful after you caught a wave because another one might be looming right behind you.
Every wave was a possible adventure. I learned to assess the steepness of its face, its speed, its glossy texture. If it all looked good, I'd run/wade through the waist-high water, resisting the tug of the wave's tow, to what seemed the right place, turn around, push off, and one-two crawl strokes - and you're off! If you've done it exactly right at the exact right time, the wave will pick you up like a swell of hot air picking up a balloon, and send you zooming toward the shore, water churning around your shoulders, body laid out like a surfboard.
My favorite sound in the world remains the hiss of the wave-foam buzzing around your ears at the end of a ride. My favorite place in the world remains Bellows Beach.
It was the summer this photo was taken that gave me all that. I look at my Dad in this photo and I weirdly see myself there. Sure, we've got the same nose, the same shoulders, but it's more than that. I don't think I took this photo, but I was in there somewhere. And I can still conjure the heavy heat of the sunshine and the powdery sand between my toes. I'm there now, and later too. And it's here with me.