It's remarkable how quickly you fall into a pattern, and how difficult it is to break out of it. In just a few days, I got used to simple meals on my little deck, long walks by the water and around the island, returning to the condo and showering in a vain attempt to clear away that resistant film of sand and sunscreen and sweat that you seem to acquire at a beach.
But real life always awaits. After a final lazy morning on the beach last Monday, I headed back to load up my car and drive inland towards my mountains. In May when I went I went up to New England, my birthplace, it felt comfortable. But it did not feel like "home." In the coastal Southeast, however, I settle back in with an ease that always surprises me. The weighty humid air, the salty breeze, the sandy soil beneath my feet - all take me back to childhood camping trips at the beach. As I walked back over the wooden boardwalk to go home, three older women passed me as they headed for the shore. Straw hats and sunglasses shielded their faces, gauzy cover-ups masked their heavy thighs, and the scent of cigarettes and coconut oil clung to them. They all smiled at me and the last one greeted me with a gravelly-voiced, "Mornin'." The folks here are nothing like me and yet they are my people. I found myself turning to watch them as they made their way down to the sand, lugging chairs and drinks and novels, and I couldn't help but smile at their retreating backs. I like to think that they will settle in as I did, gaze out at the shorebirds wheeling over the waves, and breathe deeply.