As an author and humorist, Reid Champagne is known for his absurd & sophomoric observations of everyday life. While the story of how Reid met wife Carol (after being widowed late in life) is so sweet it belongs on Hallmark, his family would argue his inept & smart-ass tendencies belong on a 2020 reboot of Grumpier Old Men.
A pretty good visual representation of my everyday brain
The ocean provides the best backdrop for idle staring, because everyone does it. The private restaurant concession at the state park where Carol and I have stayed overnight several times provides lounge chairs and umbrellas for no other purpose than to sit and stare at the changeless blue or gray horizon, depending on the cloud cover. It’s what you do at the beach.
“After schlepping enough household goods to support a Normandy Landing, and the obligatory walk in the sand (something I had apparently waxed romantic about before I fully understood the staying power of wet sand on human feet), the more serious undertaking of the outing can begin.”
Crystal Cove State Park is home to a cluster of historic cottages painstakingly restored to their original design dating back to the 1920s. Hollywood discovered the beach’s rustic setting, and films such as Treasure Island, Beaches and Hemingway’s To Have and To Have Not were shot here. In fact, the cottage where Bette Midler hospiced Barbara Hershey still stands as a free museum.
I gaze out at the sea and find what I’m looking for
But history is not my objective on these visits. After schlepping enough household goods to support a Normandy Landing, and the obligatory walk in the sand (something I had apparently waxed romantic about before I fully understood the staying power of wet sand on human feet), the more serious undertaking of the outing can begin.
No one will call you a slacker for planting an umbrella and staking out a claim to your little piece of ocean view. In truth, you will more likely be admired for having achieved the station in life that permits such an enviable life choice. Yes, the ocean is a living thing, and there are accommodations that must be made to unplanned intrusions on one’s peace and stillness in contemplation of that view.
The day I discovered the horror of wet sand
Sometimes, there’s the appearance of a gray whale or a humpback lolling along the horizon either breaching or sending up a spray of sea water from its blowhole. Such an event requires an appropriate level of surprise and wonder, leaping up from your lounge chair to point and gawk at the sight of an endangered species still able to amble free in nature. Same goes for the more regular appearances of pods of dolphins, frolicking in the surf and causing squeals of delight from the children, who just moments before, were honoring your presence with their quiet and unobserved play. Then come the bobbing heads of seals playfully putting on a show for us shorebirds, and you might as well have bought a ticket to a SeaWorld performance for all the undisturbed quietude you’re going to enjoy.
Beaches set. A free museum I’ve never been in
But there are hours of uninterrupted stillness, where nothing at all is going on out there in the ocean blue to break the drowsy, drool-inducing spell of the near motionlessness of the barely undulating current and tide that goes about its business of sustaining life above and below that far horizon with hardly a molecule of effort on display. Just the level of undetectable energy you’d like to turn into a life force of your own. I’m working on it.
Back home, friends and family enthusiastically ask after your experience at the beach, and they all react with smiles and murmurs of approval as you regale them with tales of doing absolutely nothing for two or three days straight.
Try getting that response when you have to admit you’ve done nothing but sit on a couch at home watching baseball for the same amount of time. Those barely disguised looks of chagrin and regret cast Carol’s way tell a completely different story of disapproval and disgust.
You have to remain strong in your convictions and resolve at such times, and hold on until that next beach vacation, when, lounge chair in tow, all will be well again.