There are few sites to me as soothing as a beach, almost any beach, primary color tropical or misty grey-green and cable-knit-sweater inducing. What I want in almost a primal sense is the sound of the ocean folding in upon itself and the clean smell of the surf, as if I am a crustacean washed up by the waves and trying to get back home. I want to feel the sand under my feet, my heels digging in when I walk. If it is wet sand, it will squeak. If I am in Oregon, I will stare at the Pacific until something forces me away, usually an artificial deadline of some kind, like dinner. If I am in Florida, the sounds and smells are all different: the water is warm, the sand is often soft and white, and I might be eating a Cuban sandwich instead of saltwater taffy and clam chowder. I might be drinking a pretty cocktail with a paper umbrella in it instead of a pint of Rogue Ale. I might see roller-skating young adults in slim bathing suits and white pelicans, as big as pterodactyls, in place of wind-catching kites and seagulls.
It’s not surprising that I got married on a beach.
We checked into the National Hotel for a long weekend with friends on South Beach in Miami. Our first evening, Mark and I had a drink facing the ocean under an awning. There was a lush downpour, and we contemplated with glee the ten days we had in front of us. By Tuesday we were on Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast, just the two of us swimming in the pool at Casa Ybel, where we were to be married, and suddenly a little nervous.
The joy I felt that week built upon itself in overlapping layers, like the gentle waves I stared at every morning from my balcony, gathering momentum every day until the wedding day itself, especially with the arrival - every day more people - of family and friends who would show up at the same pool to announce their appearance, laughing and looking forward to all of the festivities. We regarded their coming – for nearly everyone flew - as a form of miracle only four weeks after 9/11.
The morning we got married, I noticed a stork on the white sand, waiting patiently next to a man fishing from the shore. By afternoon, a wind came up, and the pelicans that sat in the trees under which we got married flew momentarily away. The wind was the result of a hurricane across the gulf in Mexico two days before. In wedding photos, our grinning guests are trying to control their hair with their hands, or letting it fly sideways.
It was good to be together, a unique moment for our far-flung community of family and friends who are unlikely to all be together again in one place, probably ever. On our wedding day, when my new husband and I finally said goodnight to everyone, and walked back to our room, I could see the water as far as the horizon under the moon.
Photo: my family in Assos, Turkey, where Aristotle also spent some time.