How to vacation at the beach

Befriend the ghost crabs…

An easy way to do this is to have a picnic lunch on the sand. Bring heirloom tomatoes, basil and fresh mozarella from home. Pack a beer or two in the cooler. Sit in the shade while the locals gather shrimp in their seine nets. Try not to act too alarmed at the small sharks they bring ashore. Once you’ve forgotten about them, the ghost crabs will come out of their burrows.
Let the surf rock you to sleep at low tide… 

The beach has stretched out as far as it can go (and on Jekyll Island, that’s pretty far!) I think low tide is the best tide… it’s open, gentle and inviting. Sea life enlivens the shallow water and it’s a fun time to explore what’s been left behind with the outgoing tide. There’s always some treasure… we caught glimpses of small sharky fins and a ray or two. Sadie seemed to love the gentle rocking of the sea. It’s also a good time to start a drip castle… dig a little hole and pile up the sand… let it dribble between your fingers and before you know it, there’s a world of towers, silly and crooked.
Daydream beneath a canopy of live oaks draped with spanish moss… 
Shade is important on a beach vacation; too much sun on all of those bug bites will be very painful when you’re trying to sleep later tonight… I’m not sure how I lived without the occasional sight of live oaks before moving to GA… they are the most wonderful of trees, I think! 
Breathe deeply of sky and salt marsh… 
The salt marsh is another wonderful place for exploring, especially if there’s a paved path to do it by bike! Fiddler crabs abound, as do the birds who hunt them.
Watch the sun go down behind the marina… 
There can never be too many sunsets over the water on a beach vacation, right? It’s all sort of strange and magical. We’d gone from place to place each day trying to avoid the bugs, but they found us, especially, here. The beautiful view was almost worth the bites, though.
(The shrimp and grits were especially worth the bites!)
: )
Count the pink birds when they show up… 
Let’s see… 8 roseate spoonbills, 6 wood storks, 3 tri-coloreds… who else?

Find a little town that harbors shrimp boats… 

Shrimp boats always dot the horizon here; it was fun finding them, finally, at rest.
Be on the lookout for sea turtle hatchlings!
We walked on the beach just about every night (another ploy to escape the bugs at the campground!) and all of those nights were leading up to/during/just after the fool moon. It’s a wonderful walk when the tide is out… the sand glows and the water twinkles under the huge moon. So beautiful! Who could be inside at a time like that? Who could sleep? We had a magical experience with some loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings on our first night on Jekyll… more to come!

Art seen (in progress)

The Living Walls conference is back in Atlanta and we spent the afternoon the other day wandering around the city trying to see all the murals. Many of them are in out-of-the-way-for-us neighborhoods and some of them we pass by almost every day. Getting out to see them and appreciate each for its distinct style was a fun project for a steamy summer afternoon.

Of particular interest were the murals that are being painted in the Summerhill neighborhood that surrounds Turner Field. We’re there quite often for Braves’ games and, like the CNN article implies, it’s a pretty sketchy place. It’ll be nice to have these sad-looking abandoned buildings transformed with color. Stay tuned…

Outisde the touch of time

To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. 
~Clara Ortega

This is one of those magical photos that I took almost by accident, but that manages to capture some of the truest parts of my brother Brian. We’d just come back from visiting a local auction, one of his favorite places, and he was pouring over the treasures that he brought home with him. In this case it was a box of old records. The look on his face, his posture and the lighting all contribute to a scene I think I’ve been witnessing my whole life as his kid sister… his total enchantment with anything related to music and with old, discarded things.

Our carnival life on the water

Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America — that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement… We never have the sense of home so much as when we feel that we are going there. It’s only when we get there that our homelessness begins.” ― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again 

Hurricane Sandy wrecked communities rich and poor in NJ, from the Staten Island-meets-Miami style multi-million dollar homes of Bayhead to the blue collar bayfront bungalows near where I grew up. Its images were unimaginable and unbearable to me: of trashed boardwalks pushed into the sea, of an iconic roller coaster dumped into the ocean, of a road leading into the tide where homes used to be. From a thousand miles away and desperate for news of what was happening at home, it looked as if my childhood had been washed away and that the entire Jersey Shore that I knew and loved was gone.

Eight months later, towards the beginning of last month, I went home to NJ for a couple days expecting to find a ruined way of life there, but also hoping, still, to catch a faint whiff of the competing aromas that signal “home”at the Jersey Shore: the fried dough of zeppoles just before the powdered sugar goes on, the sweet muck of a local salt marsh at low tide, the extra garlic on pizza slices and the salt spray coming off the ocean. All of these live deep in the soul of NJ for me. I found all of it, at once, and witnessed small moments in the sad seaside ritual of rebuilding the storm-damaged communities that I hold dear.

I can’t pretend to be untouched by grief at the total destruction of the shore towns that are a backdrop to a thousand stories in my life. But the Jersey Shore is more than a place; it’s more than its wood-plank promenades and town squares on stilts. It’s more than its carnival lights. It’s more than a staging ground for summer. For many, it’s an identity and an attitude. I love the shore best on foggy days when you can’t even see the boardwalk or the ocean, but can only smell it. I love the dampness and the feeling that you can almost lick the salt out of the air. I love the dampness in the sheets at night when you go to bed. You’d never put up with that anywhere else, but at the shore, it just feels right! When you walk around at night, you smell the boardwalk everywhere. There’s always a far-off murmur of traffic. It feels safe. It feels comfortable. It feels like home. All of these things, thankfully, remain.

*Photo of where a house used to be in Union Beach, one of the hardest hit communities in NJ.

*Post title from “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” by Bruce Springsteen