I went to Rockaway Beach twice this past summer.
The first time I was alone. I’d never been to the beach by myself and the idea of the sun warming my skin like my favorite wool sweater and the possibility of a reading my book to the soundtrack of crashing waves sounded like the perfect form of self-care.
Lesson Learned from my first trip: If you are going to the beach by yourself, bring spray sunscreen, not LOTION. Otherwise, the pieces of your back that you failed to cover will come out looking like a chicharron. I have the picture to prove it.
My second trip to Rockaway Beach was after being a part of a destination wedding in Mexico. It’s safe to say Rockaway beach water was nowhere near as clear as the crystal blue water in Riviera Maya where I watched fish play by my feet. No – the water at Rockaway Beach looked more like my mop water after I clean the first room in the apartment.
I walked through the sand towards the water and made an inventory of the trash that crashed on to the beach with each violent roaring wave. Water bottle caps and Corona beer caps. A dutch wrapper. A used paper towel. Broken sunglasses. An emptied Capri Sun pouch. A Nail File. A Straw. Pieces of Candy. And so on and so forth.
I joked to my sister and friend that this was a real NYC beach, timb boots, fitted and all. The tide was so violent and came up so high that the entire beach had to move back towards the boardwalk not once, not twice, but four times.
At one point, in between the mounds of trash being washed on shore, two metallic blue shells appeared before us, almost as though making a trail towards the boardwalk. We took a picture and picked them up to observe the detail. One of the conch-like shells held an oyster inside.
And as the water threatened the people on the beach by pushing them back up against the wall created by the boardwalk, a small wading pool formed at the base of the crashing waves. I watched in wonder as hundreds of tiny air bubbles rose up to the surface of the water. The wading pool filled with sea foam and bubbles, reminiscent of a hot spring.
I was stricken by how what most people would label as ugly, the trash and murky waves, could coexist with the beauty we found in the tender sun, the beautiful shells and the bubbling wading pool that formed in the midafternoon.
Lesson learned from my second trip: Comparison is the thief of joy. There is always beauty, one just has to be willing to look for it and appreciate it.
***This is essay 37 in the #52essays2017 challenge created by Vanessa Mártir.