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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Napping at the beach

Napping at the beach
Copyright 2008, Jim Penny
Word count: 698

It has long been my custom to nap at the beach, and I doubt I’m all that different from most other people in that regard. Where the difference might lie is the location of my beach naps, as I’ve never encountered another napper there, but that’s not a problem because naps are not really meant to be shared, at least not in my world. My nap is for me, and me alone, with the only noteworthy exceptions being those spontaneous, unplanned, and certainly unscheduled naps that accompanied, more like they followed, story time with the dudes directly after lunch. Those naps, we shared, especially when a faculty meeting was planned for the afternoon.

My nap spot at the beach is in the water and beyond the breakers, way beyond the breakers. I wade, then swim, through and past the breakers, and keep going until the surface is a gently rocking crib, the sounds mostly absent except for the occasional seagull that could probably use a nap too. Ending a nap in a collapsing curl full of sand and froth is a bit like not fun, and that’s why I mean way out, not just sort of way out. You’re far enough out when you can only see the shore at the top of a wave when stretching up and treading water as much as you can.

By the way, most lifeguards don’t like this kind of nap. To that end, I avoid guarded beaches for my napitury purpose, saving the guarded beaches for sight seeing, especially if the distant bar delivers, or the beach is non-American with better dressed guards.

This time, we’re camping at Huntington Beach State Park, the one with the castle, fresh water mullet, and alligators. We had spent the day before at the statuary park across Highway 17, and that meant today was a slow day. The rules require a slow day after a busy day, just as they require Jimmy Buffett to sing a slow song after a fast one.

Rules are rules, I suppose.

I have noodled away during the heat of the day while the others sawed logs. I am not going to nap to the tune of chain saws; there is just not that much wine in the grocery store. I emerge from the trail at the north end of the beach where people go to sun their buns, what with the lack of lifeguards and rangers. However, bun sunning was not my intent, though I did spend a little time watching heads and other things bobbing in the dunes.

My intent was to be the freak alone for one minute this day.

I waded, then swam, into and past the breakers, taking my floater with me, a small floater more often used for body surfing, which is an activity better replaced with Nair for hair and skin removal. At some point, I could no longer see the shore, much less the bobbers in the dunes; it was time to lean into the floater, soak up some sun and water, bob lightly in the swells, and drift slowly in the long shore current while an alternative consciousness swept my cares into the Gulf Stream.

Time stopped. Bliss ensued. My hair floated. Yes, I had hair then. Limbs dangled. Salt water lapped and left. Gentle swells rocked me with aperiodicity. Time was gone. Space was endless. Thought was null.

God loved me, and I napped.

A single thread of reality pushed its way, unwanted, denied, but unrelenting into the nonexistent space between my ears. I said, “No.” It said, “Yes.” It won, and my eye cracked, neurons firing with reluctance.

The triangular fins sliced the water beside me with what I registered as surgical precision and then alarm.

Visions of Jaws, first read, then watched, rose to fill my now alert brain. I was awake, nap cut short by the citizens in whose realm I visited. I rose. I walked on the water as the Savior, but likely with a faster pace. Let’s just say that I ran. That’s what I remember anyway.

The floater stayed.

On the shore, I turned to look back. The dolphins rose, twittered, and swam away.

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