It was blistering hot this last week. Somehow our summer and fall switched order this year. Summer, cool and breezy, our pool membership mostly neglected. Fall, over a hundred, dying for a body of water, none at the ready.
After school on Tuesday, I carted the kids off to Fort Cronkite, a beach near the Golden Gate Bridge. The scene of teenage bonfires, wine coolers, deadly walks through the quarter-mile, one-way tunnel leading out there. But here I was, in a whole different era, three sweaty kids and a grocery bag of ridiculously expensive snacks from the health food store.
The girls quickly settled into digging a giant hole in the sand. Why that's always the go-to activity at the beach, I don't know, but it's tried and true. Mihiretu wanted to chase the waves. Reluctantly, I left my blanket and novel and bag of hydroponic grapes and joined him at the water.
The sand at Cronkite is not fine. The beach, in fact, is composed of tiny rocks, getting tinier as the centuries wear on and the ocean continues to batter them. As Mihiretu ran with the waves, I kneeled on the beach, running my hand over the glistening, wet stones. Soon I had a small collection, maybe six pebbles, each, on close examination, unerringly beautiful. One a rich brick red, probably a tiny bit of lava spewed from some long ago volcano on another continent. Another the most startling pale blue-green, a blue I swear I've never seen before, veined with ivory. Another, an actual shell, worn by the years into a simple smooth bone-white.
I examined these pebbles in my palm, took a deep breath of salt air and raised my eyes to my son, dressed only in dinosaur underwear, dashing away from the tide, laughing, his still skinny legs lengthening in front of him. I looked over my shoulder at my daughters, so deep now in their excavation that only their dark blonde heads poked above the ground, engrossed, working together, their mouths moving in conversation. I beheld the ocean, that giant breathing creature, forever comforting and terrifying. And I gazed back at these stones, these tiny particles that made up this big beach, these perfect gems that I wouldn't have seen had I not taken the time. And it struck me that my life right now is a vast beach, endless tiny rocks, a million little moments that are so hard to see because they're moving past me so quickly. But when I sit here at my desk, when I write, I can take one or two out, put them in my palm and really look. I can take them out of context, frame them so that they stand alone and their meaning is evident. And then, for a moment, I can see the masterpiece, the elegance that's right under my feet before my feet again are moving, running, that day at the beach to pull Mihiretu upright after that persistent ocean finally tagged him back.