By Stephanie Blake
The sun was slowly creeping down toward the waterline as I sat on Bishop’s Beach in Homer one particularly clear June evening.
I sat alone, nestled on one of the sandy patches among the smooth rocks, shoeless and quiet. The black ocean-swept stones were warm to the bottoms of my feet from the late-day sunshine, and it was easy to find one exactly fitted for the palm of my hand. The snowcapped mountains against Kachemak Bay were cherry-blossom pink and grand. And the quiet little waves kept rolling in, gently creeping inch by inch up to the high-waterline. I was relishing one of those rare opportunities to be alone somewhere beautiful and different from home, and simply allowing myself to do nothing but be.
As I sat there in that quietness, I took note of the people who’d, like me, come to this place for a piece of quiet. There was a man who wore army fatigues rolled up to the ankles as he picked shells from the surf. He never looked up; he kept his head down, searching intently. There was the parade of everyday dog walkers who trotted behind their pets and threw smiles at me as they passed. There were clutches of 20-somethings chatting merrily on perches of driftwood. And then there were the boys.
I had seen them earlier. When I had walked down the bluff to the beach in search of my spot, I passed a younger couple making their decent too. But she was hesitant. “See, honey,” she said. “We don’t have those kinds of people in Girdwood.” She almost snorted as she gestured toward the scene on the lower beach. But I noted that he didn’t respond in kind. He cracked a fleeting, slim smile as he glanced at the rogue beater of a pickup racing up the beach, full of boys.
Clearly, they were disturbing the ambiance for all of these late-evening peace-seekers.
Here we had come for a quiet date with postcard-Alaska, and these men-err, boys, were mucking it all up. I cracked a smile too and kept walking.
As the old mess of a truck was roaring back toward the east end of the beach, I caught sight of a young man, cigarette in mouth, sitting on a cheap yellow plastic sled, tethered to the rear bumper of the truck. He was holding on for all he was worth. As the truck accelerated, the boys in the back of the bed yelped, eyeing their buddy who was sand-sledding violently through everyone else’s evening. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t safe. But I’m sure that those boys were having the time of their lives.
I guess it didn’t really bother me. They kept a safe distance from me after I sat down in the sand. But they didn’t stop. They raced back and forth, back and forth, while the sledder caught air at the divots and belly laughed with abandon. Some of the dog walkers stopped to watch and smile. Others took offense and left.
After a while, the sled-racers left, and the peace on the beach was restored.
I suppose we all cherish our long summer days differently.
It’s such a short window of time; it somehow seems shameful to begrudge someone else’s jolly time on a perfect summer night.
Most Alaskans have learned the art of carpe diem, and we take our fleeting summers with gusto. But it doesn’t look the same for all of us. Some of us are satiated by the simplicity of sand in between our toes and the rhythmic sounds of the water. But not all. Some want the ruckus, wild youthfulness that only sunshine and fresh air and companions can offer. The more I think about that night on the beach, the clearer I see that the common thread through it all is that we simply enjoy the time we’ve been given, we are grateful, and we seize it heartily.