We spent the day at Newport Beach again today. After settling in with our chairs and towels and umbrella and our books and Fig Newtons, I took a look around me–at the never-ending waves rolling in, at children around us playing in the sand, and at a lady setting up camp not far from where I was sitting. She was alone. She came by herself, with her chair, her umbrella, her towel, a beautiful Vera Bradley bag that had a magazine and book in it, and with a grocery sack from Pavilions, the local grocery store. That bag held a water bottle, a carton of coconut water and a package of cookie crackers.
There was something about her open face and manor that captured my attention. She was probably a few years older than I and she was a bit larger, but seemed comfortable in her light blue suit as she settled into her chair and tried to keep her umbrella from blowing away every time a gust of wind blew past us. Her graying hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her skin was fleshy and white, and her face was calm. She stared out to sea for a long time before pulling out her Newport Beach magazine (the kind you might find in a hotel room) and a book I could never make out the title of. She sipped her water, ate quite a few cookies, and had a bit of the coconut water.
I watched her over the top of my book, and found myself wondering who she was and why she was here. What was she thinking? Did she have family? Did she like being alone? Was she escaping to the beach, or going to find rejuvenation? She seemed so calm and at ease and comfortable with her little world around her under her umbrella. I was dying to pull my chair close enough to visit with her and hear her story.
As I watched her and wondered about her situation, I thought about every other person on the beach (100s of carloads of them) and all of their stories. I’m sure some of them are very interesting people I would love to know better (and some not). How interesting it is that we leave our homes and congregate in a place like this where we don’t really communicate with each other–we just escape into our books or music or wave watching, as the cares of our individual worlds seem to slip away.
After several hours, the lady at the beach packed up her things, and with her bags, chair and umbrella, she walked slowly across the sand, back to find her parked car somewhere on one of the streets. I watched her go until she was out of sight, feeling like I’d missed out on something today. I think we could have been good friends.