By: Cheryl Maguire
“Will you please go on a beach walk with me?”
My then nine-year-old daughter gazed up at me with her beautiful green eyes, waiting for an answer. The never ending “to do list” popped into my head. I glanced over at the dirty dinner dishes piled high in the sink and then I heard the dryer buzzer summoning me to sort the clean clothes.
“Maybe tomorrow night, I have to do the dishes, fold the laundry, and I’m exhausted.”
This was our first summer living in our cottage by the beach. Spending all day in the sand and surf wasn’t enough for her, she wanted to be back there. I think she would sleep on the beach if I let her.
“Please mom, you said that last night.”
She was right, I did say that. There was always a mounting “to do list” and going for a beach walk after dinner seemed “unproductive” especially after spending all day sitting in the sand. Didn’t we see enough of the beach today?
“Please mom, the summer is fading away.”
She was right again. Soon the frigid New England air would prevent us from basking in the warm sun as we lounged in the sand and cooled off in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Oh, all right. But it has to be a quick walk.”
She squealed with excitement and then slipped into her flower flip flops.
As we walked along the shoreline, she squatted down to retrieve a piece of sea glass and continued to do so every few feet. She pointed out the sun setting and the beautiful pink, orange sky. But I didn’t notice much of anything except the time ticking by on my phone. After fifteen minutes I said, “Okay, time to go home.”
My mindset didn’t change during the following week. Every night I begrudgingly went for a beach walk after dinner but didn’t enjoy it since I felt like the walk was yet another quotient task I’m forced to complete daily. Then one day everything changed.
As we approached the dunes, the color of the sky began to change. When we reached the waves crashing against the sand, I witnessed the most magnificent sunset. Orange, yellow, and red vibrant hues lit up the sky like a painting. It also looked like a fire but a beautiful fire. The most beautiful fire I’ve ever seen. My daughter and I stood there in awe of this incredible natural spectacle. I snapped some pictures on my phone but the visual wasn’t as impressive as it was in person.
When we arrived home, we discussed the sunset in detail for the rest of the evening. I posted pictures of it on Facebook and people thought it wasn’t real because it was so picturesque.
The next night instead of dreading the beach walk, I turned to my daughter and said, “Are you ready for our walk? What do you think that we might see tonight?”
Before I finished my sentence, her flower flip flops were already flipping against the ground as she raced towards the beach.
We didn’t see a similar sunset, but for the first time I paid attention to the sound of the large waves crashing against the sand, the smell of the salt air, and the site of seagulls dropping clams from the sky. Instead of checking the time on my phone, I searched on the ground and I found my first piece of sea glass.
“Wow mom, you found a blue piece. That is rare to find blue. Most of the glass is white or green.”
Over time, I noticed how much calmer I felt after walking on the beach. And I also felt this shared experience with my daughter. We would talk about the day, what we found on the beach, or what we were going to do tomorrow.
Six years later, my daughter is now fifteen years old, and I’m the one asking her to go on a beach walk with me. I know how she felt when I didn’t want to go because now she is too busy talking to her friends or using her electronics. Occasionally, I wear her down, just like she did to me and she’ll walk with me. When she does, I’m grateful for the time we have together.
During the cold months when I’m unable to walk, I think of those warm summer evening walks and I feel calm. Recently I had an MRI and I was unable to move, so I pictured the vibrant sunsets with the crashing ocean waves and the tension in my muscles relaxed as my feelings of fear were replaced with tranquility.
Walking on the beach only takes fifteen minutes, yet it transformed how I view nature, my relationship with my daughter, and helped me feel a sense of calm I didn’t know before. I don’t remember cleaning the dishes or doing the laundry, but that sunset is forever etched in my mind. I would have missed it if I focused on finishing my “to do list” instead of spending time with my daughter who now has other interests besides walking on the beach.
“Will you please go on a walk with me? The summer is fading away.”
My daughter who was almost my height looked at me with her beautiful green eyes and said, “Ok mom but it has to be quick.”
Before she finished her sentence, my flip flops were already flipping against the ground as I raced towards the beach.