When we were younger, my brothers and I jumped in the waves at the coast for what seemed like hours, though judging by our lack of hypothermia, it was probably less time than we thought. Largely ignoring our parents’ exhortations to go no deeper than our knees (at first we would obey this safety rule, but the waves would catch up with us and soak our pants clear up our legs, the wetness leaving damning evidence of our rule-breaking), we rolled up our sweat pants, held hands in a chain, and stepped into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean. Standing in salty, clear water swirling around our ankles, we waited, one heartbeat, two, three, adrenalin building. Just as the next set of waves broke inexorably toward us, I would yell now!, the four of us backing up quickly, racing backwards away from the oncoming waves and sending up water in a splashing, frothy chaos. Suddenly, we would stop and jump together over the foamy white line that defined the edge of the wave, holding hands and hollering in delight.
When we were unable to feel our feet anymore, we would run to the space halfway between dunes and ocean, where the wet sand was the ideal material for digging holes to China and building elaborate, lumpy sandcastles. Our dad would assist us in digging holes large enough for us to stand in, and our mom would construct the best moats and drawbridges for our castles, which we decorated with bits of driftwood and broken shells. When we tired of that we would scamper over to forts of driftwood or clamber over the sand dunes. Sometimes sea kelp would lie in slimy green strands on the sand, and we would exclaim at the gross factor before picking up the smelly item and whipping it around. We avoided beached jellyfish and used sticks of driftwood to carve patterns into the wet sand. Sometimes we could convince Mom and Dad to let us bury someone in the sand, a project that inevitably resulted in sandy ears and hair for days after. As we got older, we would occasionally join our parents in reading novels in the shelter of the dunes.
Nowadays when we visit the coast, my brothers will run around exploring the sand dunes and hiding in the coarse sea grass, while I make a beeline for the ocean, where I splash around in the waves without pause. Eventually they join me, and we dance with the sea, moving forward and back with the graceful waves. I keep my eyes peeled for whole sand dollars and chunks of agate, while the boys play ninja on wet sand that reflects the clouds in the sky. We wander up and down the beach together, exploring pockets of tide pools, balancing on great hunks of driftwood, and wandering among the waves or along the cliffs, as we keep up a running commentary of the teasing and the absurd. We change, but the coast remains ever-changing as always.