At this time of year, I dream about the summer beach and its welcome assault on my senses: the smell of coconut sunscreen and burgers on the grill; the sound of the season’s Top 40 hits, blended conversations, and gleeful shrieks from the water; the taste of melting ice cream bars and ice-cold Diet Coke; the sensation of sand running through my fingers or scratching the soles of my feet; and the colorful beach towels, coolers, umbrellas – and all that tanned skin! The days are longer now. It won’t be long…
…before I swap out my wool sweaters for T-shirts and my leather boots for toe-baring Birkenstocks; before we turn off the heat and open the windows; before the sun is up when I open my eyes; before I am back at the beach, covered from face to feet in SPF 30 and scouring the tideline for sea glass.
And yet, the winter beach is becoming equally appealing to me: the smell of the salt water; the sound of seabirds and waves, or no discernible noise at all; the taste of cold air; the feel of the wind pressing against my face; and a horizon void of sailboats and paddle boards. It is when I’m walking the winter beach, when distractions are at a minimum, that my mind has a chance to open up, to be thoughtful about my surroundings, to be present.
Every morning, I listen to various meditation gurus teach me about being present via an app on my phone – and it’s a struggle, with thoughts flying in and out as fast as I can name them and the aroma of coffee filling the kitchen. The advice I receive is typically helpful. But maybe I need to swap in more trips to the winter beach.