When people think of beaches, they think warmth, bright colors and frothy comforting water. When I think of beaches, I think Grayland.
Grayland is more than a town, but it is at least a town on the Washington State coastline. Grayland is a state of mind. Unlike the destination beaches found on tropical islands, Grayland’s beach is not smooth white sand. It is gray and lumpy, textured like whale skin, rubbery to the touch and covered with silt. Its waters froth and tumble to the shore, but their bite is icy like a small nipping dog. When the sun shines in Grayland it is wan, like a tear-stained smile, watery and lacking vigor. Its moods are more than seasonal: they pass like the hours in quick succession and varying degrees of tempestuousness.
The Beach was a place for me. A single destination, devoid of brilliant colors and full of a color pallet of browns and greens and grays, muted, tired, allowing the ocean to suck their life away with the outgoing tide. It is a place I associate with salty air, permeated with the smell of decay, of mold, of moss. The trees clothe themselves in lichen coats to keep out the cold, the wind runs its icy nail down your spine and makes you shiver. The people here walk with the clouds on their shoulders like heavy burdens, smiling up from under them toward the sunshine that they never see. Their homes are chipping away with the wind, piece by piece, the paint flaking, the wood softening, the windows weeping rusty colors into trails to the ground.
Nevertheless, when I went back to The Beach two days ago, I felt like I had just rediscovered a part of myself that I wasn’t aware was missing. I kept rolling down the window just to smell the air, salt-covered and icy. The thudding waves drowned out my heartbeat and I felt like I no longer could feel myself as a single person. I stepped on the ballooned end of a seaweed just to hear it pop. Why is it that this cold unwelcome place holds such comfort for me? What is it about Grayland, about The Beach, that makes my skin crawl and my heart open up like a wave yawning toward shore, swallowing as much as possible before retreating, full to the brim?
I don’t know, but I hope I keep it.