I moved to Wilmington in 2002 to study writing and to take, what I thought would be, a short sojourn at the beach. The first few weeks I woke up early and took a walk on Wrightsville Beach every morning and every time it felt like I was on vacation. The ocean has a way of doing that, of taking away what you no longer need. My friend calls its “smoothing” and her walks in the sand at the end of the day “smooth” away the stress of work.
Weeks stretched into months. I didn’t walk on the beach every day, but I tried to make it to the ocean once a week, no matter the season. I saw dolphins at Thanksgiving and caught a sunrise on the first day of the new year. I thought that eventually the magic would wear off, that the lift I felt deep in my being when I caught the first glimpse of the sparkling water and the sandy beach would dissolve with time and familiarity.
Eleven years later, I take my four-year-old son to the beach once a week. We bring a bag of sand toys, snacks, and towels. He runs ahead of me on the boardwalk, and I trail behind, ready for that moment, the instant I glimpse the sea and everything I hold onto melts away.