A walk on the beach after retirement

My wife and I live only 30 minutes from a favorite beach on the seacoast. Since we are retired and have some flexible time, we pop over to that beach for enjoyment, mental health time and even exercise. We have to plan our visits for low tide because much of the beach disappears at high tide and the parts that are left have only soft sand and are difficult to walk on for exercise.

Arriving at the parking lot presents the first adventure. There is a small free parking lot right at the beach. During tourist season and on weekends it is usually very busy and the overflow lot about two blocks away costs $4 per hour. Being retired, there is an amazing amount of joy that comes from scoring a free spot when it is busy.  They even devote 2 spots to veterans parking, so this year I actually got veterans plates for my car. They have 2 more for handicapped, but I’m not ready to go there yet…

So come walk with me for a bit and I’ll show you “our” beach. From an observation deck we walk down a flight of steps to an aluminum ramp that makes the transition from steps to sand much easier. We take off our shoes and leave them near the stairs.  Ahhh…sand between the toes. Such a great feeling brings back so many memories of family times at the beach, even from when I was a kid. My family went camping several times a summer just a half mile from this beach, so I have a long, pleasurable history with her. We always walk toward the water just to dip in our toes. Early in the season since it is the North Atlantic, sometimes toes are all that get dipped; your ankles would ache after only 45 seconds in the water. Later in the season maybe knees are included. Lately, the water is warm enough to actually go swimming, but refreshing doesn’t quite seem the best description of how cold it still is…

It is amazing how much redecorating Mother Nature does on a regular basis. Early this year there was a drop of about a foot and a half from the ramp to the sand. Now (August) the sand covers the ramp by almost 2 feet so the handrails are just right for the toddlers.

Back to our walk on the beach. After testing the water we turn left to head north on the beach. It is about a mile and a quarter to the jetty and at low tide the beach is firm and easy to walk on. On a busy day there are kids yelling in excitement as they rummage through the rock formations and pools for small creatures including crabs, periwinkles, shrimp and small fish . While Mother Nature is redecorating she pulls sand from around the rocks and ledges and moves it onto the ramp for the toddlers. I wonder how Mister Nature feels about the constant moving? I know (ahem) ‘friends’ who cringe when the missus considers moving furniture around…

Back to our walk. There are kids yelling in excitement, an occasional  baby crying for whatever reason babies do that, boogie boarders and wind surfers practicing their art and even a few surf casting fishermen trying their luck. Over more years than I choose to admit, I have seen very few fish caught from the beach but I admire the patience and devotion of those anglers.  We then see a two or three year old little girl in a one piece bathing suit that won’t fit her next year. She is crouching, carefully handling and inspecting a pile of seaweed to see what treasures might be within. An older sister, maybe a tween, seems horrified that anyone would touch that gross pile of ick. I wonder if that three year old will become a marine biologist as a result of the experiences her family provided that day. I notice groups of tweens and young teens, both boys and girls playing together and am grateful that they are allowed to just be kids for a little while longer. Then there are the older teens. The guys who haven’t yet Learned that the idea of checking out the fairer sex is to do so without getting caught and without making her feel uncomfortable. The girls, some of whom just want to be left alone with their day at the beach and others who are practicing the ancient art of attracting just the right amount of attention.

Next we see the sand castles where just a few moments ago there were six or seven youngsters working together to get the corner towers just right, the moat ready to defend the inhabitants and the walls prepared to repel any and all invaders. But now, it sits in a futile defense against the next incoming tide. The castle lasted an hour or two, but the memories…how long might they last? We consider the building blocks of those castles. They are only grains of sand, but what about their memories? How long ago were they small rocks just laying in the sand? For how many years were they ground against each other to become millions of grains of sand and the building blocks of castles…and the sand between our toes?

Rocks or future sand particles

As we get closer to the jetty, less than a half mile away, I look up and think we are almost there. That makes me smile because just a few months ago I had walked to the same spot while recovering from a total hip replacement. At that time my thought was “I don’t think I can make it all that way”, and now I’m thinking we are almost there. Such different perspectives for the same walk.

Almost There

We make it to the jetty, take a short break and then turn back. Our stroll has taken about 40 minutes so far and it seems like only ten. It’s after 5 PM and dogs are now allowed on the beach. Does anything look happier than a dog at the beach? Some like to chase the waves, others love to jump headlong into them. A few don’t know what to make of water that moves and they just don’t trust it. Most are on a leash and leading their humans toward the next vast adventure. That adventure might be getting off leash to chase a ball or Frisbee or even that seagull right there. No, maybe the one to the left. Or that group of gulls way over there…

On the way back I walk a little slower. Partially because I just walked over a mile in the sand, but mostly to enjoy the scenery in my retirement. There are all those cottages that have built so many memories for several generations of families. The sky keeps changing; when we started it was bright blue and now it has that weird formation of clouds. I stop a bit more often to gaze around me. I am reminded of a line in a song I’ve heard hundreds of times. It is from America, the song is “A horse with no name”, and the line is “The ocean is a desert with its life underground”. I look over the vastness of the sea in front of me and am amazed to think of so many different forms of life right in front of me that I can’t even see.

A desert with the life underground

I have also developed another habit while walking the beach. I grew up in a small town and we always waved to passersby. Sometimes because we actually knew them, but mostly just to be friendly. Now when passing by someone on the beach I smile and toss them a wave. Some folks were looking for a quiet time not be disturbed, some are lost in their own thoughts, many are ready to wave back. But the most fun are those people ‘from away’ who are visiting our beach for a bit. The folks from away aren’t used to getting waved at and are surprised that someone they don’t even know is waving at them. Then they usually catch themselves, smile a bit and wave back. I like to think they realized that they left the crowds of the city to experience a less crowded week or so and they realize that waving is just what we do around here. That brief moment of surprise and indecision I see makes the wave very worthwhile.

As we get closer to the parking lot and wrap up our 2-1/2 mile trek we look for the shoes we left by the stairs, and consider what a fine walk it was. I remember taking the same walk in the dead of winter (without leaving our shoes behind) and how differently we had to dress. The sea was still there, but no sand castles. There were other folks walking the beach and a few dogs happy to be out and running. The cottages were all boarded up against any storms that threatened and the lifeguard chairs were stowed; that part of the beach is sleeping while there is always hope for the warmer weather to come back.

I am reminded to thank my lovely wife for accompanying me on so many trips, both warm and cold. We don’t talk a lot during our walks, but there sure is a lot to see and ponder.

A few weeks ago on an earlier trip to the beach I noticed a local license plate that said ‘CWISPERS’. It took me a minute, but I finally got it.



That is what has been so enticing for over 60 years. The whispering of the sea has always called to me. As the waves glide in and out they ever so softly relentlessly whisper to me.

Thanks for walking with me; drop in again sometime.

Published by barnberry

Well over aged 60 (well, OK, a lot more than that...) father of one outstanding young woman, unworthy husband of the most patient and talented woman in the world, retired small business owner, lover of all the wrong foods, political junkie and resident of NH. A conservative with a libertarian streak, and a thoughtful, impish, dedicated curmudgeon.

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