I don’t know where you all are right now, but in Indiana, PA it has been snowing almost every day since I got back from winter break. Being from Allentown, I’m not used to living high up in the mountains. I’ve always been one to fantasize about summer during the winter months, but now that I’m here in what seems more like a tundra, my mind is running rampant with thoughts of hot days and sand between my toes.
Speaking of sand between my toes, earlier I was thinking about an experience I had in the summer of 2011. My family went to Carolina Beach, NC for a vacation that year. And when I say my family, I mean a lot of people. My two aunts, my uncle, my cousin, my step-grandma, my parents, my younger sister, my aunt’s friend, my friend Arielle, and me. The eleven of us squeezed into a cheap condo for two weeks, and it was one of the best experiences of my entire life.
I didn’t take this, but it was taken at Carolina Beach where we were staying. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place.
My friend Arielle, who I convinced my parents to bring with us, is one of my best friends of all time. Having her around made the vacation absolutely perfect. We spent as much time as possible on the beach or the boardwalk. The great thing about the boardwalk there is that there are no stores or rides or attractions. It’s a dimly lit walkway with periodic offsets with seating areas. If only I’d had a boyfriend at the time to walk down it with; talk about romantic!
Here’s a picture of Arielle and me at the beach, taken by my aunt Crystal. Yes, my hair was extremely short back then.
Arielle and I loved hanging out with my family during our time there. The Cuban side of my family was with us, so let’s just say things were never dull with them. However, sometimes we just needed a break from all the noise and constant hugs. So one night we snuck out around midnight to go stargazing on the beach. I remember the exhilaration of sneaking out for the first time, in an unfamiliar place nonetheless! Giggling like the young teenage girls that we were, we tiptoed barefoot across the gravel road separating us from the dunes. When we reached the beach, we ran straight for the water to wet our feet, never daring to go past knee-deep in the unknown darkness of the ocean.
I was thinking to myself how starkly different the shore is at night compared to during the daylight. Suddenly the sand feels so much more uneven under your steps because in the low light your depth perception can’t quite grasp the dips and divvies left by the day’s travelers. The foam lined water no longer looks refreshing, but instead carries an air of mystery in its blackness. If you look up and it’s not cloudy, the view is always breathtaking. I’m from a city where you’re lucky if you see a few stars a night, and even then I can’t trust them when I live five minutes from the airport.
Arielle and I looked for a flat spot to lie down our towels, but kept coming across wet patches of sand from the tide pools that had littered the beach during the day. By the middle of the night they had soaked into the ground, but the sand was still very wet, even right up near the dunes. At first we were dismayed that almost all of the sand was wet, rendering us without a comfortable place to sit. However, being the clumsy person I am, I tend to look at my feet when I walk. What I saw practically immobilized me.
We’ve all heard of the “glowing blue waves” that people witness at beaches if they’re lucky. Bioluminescence wasn’t a new concept to me, but I never expected to see it right below my feet in North Carolina on that night.
Whenever I set my foot down, hundreds of tiny, blue pinpricks appeared on the sand around and under it. For a moment I bent down to look closely at the reactive glowing of the millions of microscopic plankton clinging to life in the rapidly drying sand. I’m really into biology and I love thinking about things scientifically, especially when it comes to nature. But sometimes I like to just let my imagination run wild instead.
Soon Arielle and I were singing and running and jumping down the beach, spinning and stomping to the made-up beats in our heads. Looking down at my feet, I imagined myself as a ethereal creature dancing gracefully over the sand. The ground was alive beneath me, greeting my feet magically with every step. Feeling elegant and exquisite, I let myself lose touch with reality for the time we remained on the beach.
By the time we tired ourselves out, the sand was almost finished drying and the lights were becoming sparse. We lied down on the finally dry sand, regretting wishing for it in the first place. The moment was over and we had no way of getting it back. Despite that, we couldn’t stop smiling. We kept describing to each other what we’d seen, as if the other hadn’t also witnessed it.
I love to capture beauty in art and photographs, but a moment like that is not something you can capture with anything besides a memory. Even if had taken a picture, it would have just looked like small dots on the ground. Even if I tried to paint a picture of it now, it would just be blue flecks on a black canvas. Nothing can bring back the feeling of creating the light with my own steps, the magic of it. That’s okay though, because I think we all need experiences like that. Everyone needs something to long to go back to, something that cannot be recreated with ease. If it could be, it wouldn’t be so magical feeling in the first place.
What’s an experience you’ve had that made you feel magical?