Whenever I hear someone talk about going to "the beach", it brings to mind a special place on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
My first time at the beach was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. As a child, I stayed out there for extended periods of time, as my parents rented a summer cottage. I spent many hours swimming, playing in the sand, and hunting for sharks' teeth. We gathered a nice collection of them, plus other fossils.
There was a pier about a quarter mile from the beach. My father would help me and by brothers and sister to wade out there. We could jump from two levels into the water. I learned to swim out there.
The Bay has its share of jellyfish, or sea nettles. The pier had a fenced in area that kept the jellyfish out. However, wading out there was another story. My father was responsible for seeing them before they got to us. Their sting was quite painful. We learned that meat tenderizer was very good in easing the pain.
There are also blue crabs there, of course. The Bay is famous for them. Occasionally, we would step on one, and they would pinch our feet. Ouch! We also went crabbing, and often had crabs for dinner.
After that, I went out there on my own. I purchased a small sailboat and kept it on the beach. Sailing in the Bay was great. Sometimes, I would go out there after work, and sail until nightfall. I would time it so I would hit the beach just when it was too dark to see. Just being out there for a few hours and sailing was like a mini-vacation!
At night, the sky was very dark. Only the northwestern sky was lit up by the lights from Washington and Baltimore. The summer Milky Way was bright, extending from Cygnus on down to the east of Scorpio, where you are looking directly into the center of our galaxy. I owned a commercial 8" telescope at that time. Plus, I had a 6" scope that I made myself. Using those scopes out there was a delight.
There were always lots of lightening bugs there. Sometimes, they would gather on one tree. It was like a Christmas light show.
The cottage had beds set up around the upper level. At night, you could lie in bed and listen to the waves on the beach. When the tide came in it would get loud for awhile. Combine that with the smell of the country air. What a good night's sleep!
The house across the street from our cottage was very old. The owners say it was used in the Underground Railroad to help slaves to escape to freedom. They have a large open field, up on a hill. That is where I would set up my telescope.
I was even out there for several hurricanes, that came right up the Bay. Following one of them, the water was drawn out so far, that the water's edge receded about a quarter mile from its normal boundary. We found a huge sharks' tooth out in the mud.
I don't get out there much anymore. But, when I can, I still enjoy going out there just to see the Bay, smell the saltwater, and enjoy the beach.
For me, "the beach" will always bring back pleasant memories.
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