Grunion Running and a Message in a Bottle

You’re at the beach, lounging on your towel, when a glistening object at the water’s edge catches your eye. It’s a bottle — and yes, it contains a message. What does it say?

I’m so engrossed in my novel that I do not even notice the tide coming in until the small shore-waves splash my feet.

“Damn,” I think. “I have to move. Maybe I’ll just call it a day.”

I stand up and put my book in my beach bag. I carefully lift my towel and carry it closer to the ocean to shake it out. Living by the beach, a person learns to shake out the towel where the sand won’t bother others. The wind shifts and blows the sand into my face. I turn back to my bag, book, car keys and the appurtenances of the land life. I begin to think of the day’s next step, a long drive back to the mountains, feeding the dogs, a shower, dinner I realize — again — that whatever break I take from routine, routine doesn’t go anywhere. I’m not ready for that. I’m not ready to pick up where I left off.

I sit down on the sand again, remembering when I moved here, thirty years ago this coming August. I didn’t want to move here. I was happy where I was, but the marriage (already rocky and awkward) and my loyalty to it, brought me out to California where I’d never wanted to live. We lived in apartments near here, near the beach. I had no idea what to do with the ocean. I’m a mountain woman. I had a boogie board and a bike and a swim suit and so I did what everyone else did on this isthmus (island, it’s called but is NOT. California really IS all about illusion) and went on my bike to the beach. I watched people boogie boarding and tried it. I got dumped over and over again. I worried constantly that someone had stepped on my glasses or that I wouldn’t be able to find my stuff. I had a bright red towel to help me with that, laid over the back of my beach chair like a beacon to my blindness. At the end of each of these “adventures” I’d ride home with sand in my suit, miserable, homesick, lonely, confused and hating the beach. Every day I reminded myself that once I had loved the ocean.

So here I am now, seeking just a quick respite from teaching, class, my normal life, my mountain life.

GrunionAlertDanHarding-lgIt’s a good beach. Since the dark early days, I’ve had a lot of fun here. Beach parties, body surfing with kids, surfing once on a stolen surfboard with the boys, my dogs running after gulls and ending up in the waves, riding back, joyful, on the waves. I once watched a stark weather change – a sea change – placid heat and flat green sea to sudden white horses and dark blue waves, all in minutes. I’ve found living sand dollars, lavender and soft. One night I saw the grunion run. They are beautiful little fish with cute faces. They come in thousands to the beaches to do their very odd mating ritual. I remember a bright spring afternoon, a friend, riding high waves, near the rip tide, fearless, breath-taking, beautiful. Navy jets fly overhead.

I walk into the shallow surf, the sand black with mica.

An object bobs toward me in the waves, a bottle. My first thought, “Glass on the beach!!! Grrrrrr!” then I reach for it. There’s a note inside. I think of Sting, shake off the horror of that, and remove the note.

“Help! I’m trapped in time!” The handwriting is mine.


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