I’m thinking that maybe half of you, Denver, will agree with me in saying that the one thing missing from this beautiful state is the beach. The other half of you is perfectly fine with the ocean being as far away as it is and you’ve contented yourselves with those glorious Rockies.  Sure, the mountains are great, but nothing, nothing will ever come close to being so heartbreakingly perfect as the beach.

My ma happens to live a mere 20 minutes from one of my favorite beaches in the world in North Carolina. “The Machine” graduated from college on Sunday (congrats Tarheels, class of 2011!) so in the midst of graduation and Mother’s Day festivities, I decided to take advantage of my close proximity to the beach and milk it for all it was worth. We loaded up Ma’s car with the surfboards, beach chairs, a volleyball and our favorite Glee soundtrack (Rachel and Finn covering Journey, anyone?) and we were at the beach by 11.

I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t stepped foot in warm sand in months but almost the second the sparkly grains touched my winter-soft toes, any stress I felt for taking five days off work melted away and a wave of giddiness washed over me. Turns out that wave was the only wave Lake Atlantic saw that day, so I didn’t even bother bringing my hot pink WRVout of hibernation. I was too blissfully happy in the sand and sun to care much, though. We dropped our stuff a ways away from any people (we like our space at the beach) and Ma brought out the Bullfrog.

“MA, we don’t need that sunscreen crap, I brought the olive oil!” exclaimed The Machine, gesturing wildly with his half-gallon bottle of Extra Virgin. “It’s got protecting qualities so we won’t get burnt and we’ll get wonderfully bronzed.” He poured a capful and slathered it over his body. Ma and I exchanged skeptical looks then followed suit. Very unfortunately for us all, The Machine was very much misinformed and we were all hideously burned (Ma secretly applied sunscreen on top of her oil, so she suffered the least) and all we needed were some Fingerling potatoes and rosemary and we were dinner.

I’ve found it’s quite easy to drop everything and play at the beach, so that’s what The Machine and I did for the rest of the afternoon. We got out the volleyball and worked up a bit of a sweat playing what started out as volleyball, which quickly turned to keep-the-ball-up-at-any-cost, after which we abandoned the ball and I showed him some yoga poses which naturally turned into a handstand contest. We decided to go on a barefoot run (so primal of us) and we detoured every 50 feet to investigate washed-up wooden planks covered in barnacles with their brittle, dried up feelers poking out or to poke sticks down huge crab holes or to check out what looked like a mound of seagull feathers that actually turned out to be the remnants of a seagull (bleck.)

wilmington, nc intercoastal. photo by kat yetka

After our run, we got ankle-deep in the water and then sissied out for 20 minutes because it was too cold. Eventually a big enough wave came when we weren’t paying attention and knocked our feet out from under us and we were forced under the frigid blue water and emerged spluttering and completely exhilarated. We dragged our shivering bodies up to Ma and our towels and soaked up the sun (bad idea #2) then headed home where our sunburns got progressively worse.

The next day, my last day in town, Ma wasn’t in to the beach and The Machine was hurting just as much as me, and I started to panic that I wouldn’t be able to get to the beach one last time. I managed to put on my big girl pants and whined until The Machine drove T-licious and me out there one last time. By the time we got there, the sun was a couple hours shy of setting (our skin couldn’t take it any earlier) and we were the only ones there. Despite the dropping temperatures, I knew I had to get in the water; I don’t know the next time I’ll be by the ocean. I decided not to take it slow this time, so I just booked it out into the water, jumping with my arms above my head and shrieking by myself while my companions sprawled on their towels. The water was just as cold as before and the wind made goosebumps pop up on my bright red skin. The sky was doing the swirling colors thing I like; where sunsets in the west are vibrant and bold, an Edvard Munch, sunsets in the east are Monet. I dove under the water again and again, holding my breath longer each time and digging my hands under the sand, listening to the dull roar of the “waves” on the surface rolling towards the shore. I slowly left the water, dragging my feet through the waves and shells, and took huge breaths, trying to keep the taste as long as I could; a bittersweet goodbye before I head home, back west.