California Deamin’

February 29, 2016

Toes in the Sand About this time of the year, I long for sand between my toes.  Winter is winding down, and I need sun and sand. I use time near the seashore to restore my psyche, recharge my batteries and renew my desire to write.

Maybe it’s because I grew up near the beach in Southern California and always had sand in my bathing suit as a child. My mother has pictures of my first Christmas, a picnic at the beach, one of those unseasonably hot days when the Santa Ana winds blew. The best place to chill out was near the ocean. I had a small bucket and spoon. She said I spent two hours putting sand in the bucket and pouring it out. Oh, the simple things that delight a child.

Over the years, I spent much of my misplaced youth in or around the water. Almost always salt water, although occasionally a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, or water skiing (actually, water non-skiing, because I always fell off the skis and ended up drinking too much river water) on the Colorado River out near Needles, CA. Mostly, I gravitated to salt water, because that precise spot where the influence of the land gives way to the pull of the sea is magical. I can’t get that from fresh water.

When the winter days grow longer, I dream of getting in the ocean and swimming. Not surfing like I did when I was young and silly (I still have knobs on my knees from kneeling on the board), but floating around and enjoying the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair. Now that I look at the title of this post, I wonder if I’m really California Dreamin’ or am nostalgic for any ocean. At this time of the year, the Pacific is too darned cold. The Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico are much better.

My friends often ask why I don’t go back to California. It’s an easy answer: the California I loved and remember fondly no longer exists except in my memory. I’ve moved on. I no longer fit out there. I fit when I live, in southwestern Virginia on a huge fresh water lake, which is too cold to swim in now. This summer, yes, but not now.

I do dream of California sometimes, because I miss my friends who still live there. But, my life is in the East. I think I’m kind of grumpy, because we missed our trip to Florida this year. We waited until it was too late to book the bungalow we love. However, the sun came out today. It was warm enough to go for a long walk without heavy jackets or boots. I returned to the house with a flushed face from the sun.

Maybe California Dreamin’ gave way today to Virginia dreaming. Or maybe I returned smiling because I know how to get over a bump in my latest story. Or maybe I returned smiling because my husband and my kitty were waiting for me. Yup, I think those two things, plus sun, are enough to make me smile.

Happy Leap Day. What makes you smile today?


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  • Reply pdroberts1 February 29, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    For starters, Betsy, your blog post makes me smile today. I have had a ragged couple of days in my neck of the woods and am slowly, very slowly, dragging myself out and up. To take you literally, the sun and the sand were always the ultimate therapy for me; I was a Sun Baby and, in the summers, my skin got brown and warm as fresh bread and I felt healthy and fit and slimmed down to racing form. The exposure to the sun tapped into every possible source of comfort I could imagine and I felt safe and alive. I find that, as I get older, I just can’t stand the heat, so I long for other seasons–Fall and Spring and warm Winter days for bundling up and walking. But it’s still the same dynamic; it is existing completely and unreservedly in my own body. When I lived in Michigan I had llamas and a sweat lodge; I mucked stalls (a little metaphorical shit-shovelling is a boon to the soul). I suppose what I long for is that sensation of wholeness that always came from holding my face up to the light and surrendering every muscle to those scorching rays. Today, my surrender will come in the form of simple acceptance of What-Is. And imagining the sun on my face. I had a friend years ago who always said, in answer to how things were going, “It’s nothing that six weeks in the Bahamas wouldn’t cure.” Amen, sisters.

    • Reply betsyashton February 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Something about worshiping nature and the sun gets into me. I agree with your friend. Everything can be cured with six weeks in the Bahamas… Stay well.

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