One of the charming things about going to the beach is watching people let it all hang out. Well, we have bodies, don’t we? We sure do. And in the summer we like to give them an airing. Which means that on a fine day such as this, potbellies, skinny legs, generous thighs and varicose veins are freely on display down at the Cove and everyone is fine with it. In winter if we saw such a scene, in a mall for example, we’d all be staring at one another! But not here, not today.
One hundred years ago a woman desperate to get into the water wore a woollen bathing gown with weights sewn into the hem so the skirt wouldn’t float up. Long black stockings, bathing slippers and an elaborate bathing cap completed her outfit. It must have been a wet miserable scene. Things bathing-suit-wise weren’t that charming for men either but at least they didn’t have to wear skirts.
Bikinis were invented in the 1940s: what a relief for women! I’ve never been much of a bikini person myself but I’m all in favour of coverage options. One piece, two piece, it’s great to see everyone relaxing together in a state of semi-clothedness.
At high tide in the Cove, folks sunbathe up on the grass in dignified fashion with blankets, umbrellas, magazines, light fiction and coolers full of delicious possibilities. But when the tide is out, beachgoers march purposefully down the slip and lay claim to a portion of that coveted real estate known as a sand bar. Dignity is left behind as the Cove becomes vibrant with uninhibited children, gull-chasing dogs, proud grandparents, self-satisfied residents and awestruck summer visitors.
In warm tidal pools young and old alike frolic on floaties and inflatable rafts. People distractedly wade into the water carrying cell phones and coffee mugs. Some women clutch a purse. Out past the last sandbar kayaks skim along the water’s surface, brave souls balance uncertainly on paddleboards, and folks such as myself just plain swim.
Along the shore at a safe distance blue herons perch on high branches waiting impatiently for humans to retreat, while ring-billed, herring and black-backed gulls carry on with business as usual. Someone spies a bald eagle circling overhead, white head glistening in the sunlight, and all eyes turn skyward. “It’s so big! It doesn’t even flap its wings!”
Attention shifts to the minnows darting about our feet, perhaps playing tag, perhaps grateful for a moment’s respite from the threat of a shore bird’s hungry beak. Small crabs scurry suspiciously sideways, and a flatfish, disturbed, flattens itself invisibly into the ocean floor. Hermit crabs scurry along always on the way to somewhere else. All sea creatures, perhaps even the minnows, seem to have a goal. They’re not on holiday like the rest of us.
By late afternoon the crowd thins. The sunblock is wearing off, the chips are eaten, and supper must be thought of. It’s time to brush off sand and rejoin civilization. Beachwear is shed and town clothes put back on.
It’s been another good day at the shore.