This beach is crowded with rocks of many colors. Some stack comfortably together and others tumble in the tide. There's a salty tang in every breath and prickles of hot sun on suncreen-less skin are so intense that sensation overwhelms any concerns about UV rays. It's promising to be a lovely afternoon on the island where we are camping. I'm starting to hear the quiet in my mind as my hands busy themselves with nothing.
Not too far away, the 7 year old heaves a largish rock into the ocean, creating a low, heavy splash. His giggles spread out with the ripples and fade just as fast. He fumbles for the next one and industriously scratches out yet another message. Because these rocks are really notes. Slivers of granite, worn down by relentless waves from the larger rocks they used to be, make perfect pencils for lithe, young fingers. It's their last incarnation before eroding into beach sand. Oyon busily inscribes important messages with rocks on rocks and tosses his communicae high in the air and into the water. When an impressive succession of engraved rocks have been dispatched he turns with a satisfied sigh to the business of excavation. Sea glass has been found and needs burying. For safe keeping. For eventual return to the ocean as tides re-open their shallow graves and tug them back out. And for the most compelling of all reasons to dig on the beach: just because.
A dozen yards away, the 11 year old skips stones and hurls pebbles in shin deep water with laser-like focus. She experiments with size, shape and pitching technique to gain maximum skips and distance. Once all obvious permutations are exhausted and an optimal method found, the activity reaches a natural end and loses her interest. She paddles in the frigid shallows now, youthful enthusiasm over-riding gooseflesh that even the fierce rays of a 3 pm sun won't prevent. It's impossible not to laugh out loud at the Esther Williams poses she unconsciously strikes while reveling in the sheer delight of sea water bouyancy. It brings a mesmerizing kind of anti-gravity, enabling contortionism that dry land would invariably check (though not rule-out for this athletic young lady).
Executing a wheelbarrow crawl on her hands, peering into the sea floor, she suddenly lets out a squeal and brings up something dripping and grey.
"Oyon, look!" she giggles, splashing the short distance to his excavation site.
"It's my rock! I wrote this!" he yells in disbelief.
"You threw in dozens and you picked up dozens. What are the odds you'd pick up what he tossed?" I laugh as they hand over this incredible evidence of serendipity.
It had been wonderful to see the kids immerse fully in this explosion of sensation: the texture of the rocky beach, occasional patches of fine sand in the shallows, the taste of the salty water (Oyon kept taking little licks of his hand), the tingling of sea spray drying on sun-heated skin. As they happily returned to their individual explorations, I looked down at this piece of wonder to see a scrawl in Oyon's distinct hand (he tends to flip his 'g's so it's unmistakable). It read "no hugs" (picture below).
I'd been stealing gushy hugs and kisses too often of late, to suit his 'big boy' sensibilities. When he started playfully putting up 'force fields' to deflect my 'attacks' I sensed my cuddles had strayed into the realm of privacy-invasion. Childhood cuddles were drawing to a close and I stoicly struck a pre-emptive deal that I'd ask his permission for hugs and cuddles. I wasn't going to wait for annoyance and resentment from that over-babying syndrome that I see costing many parents their childrens' affection and closeness. I was going to cut the apron strings that I obviously needed more than him and take pride in his increasing need for space. I thought it had been working well.
Now, here he was, not-so-subtly communicating his desire for a more stringent addendum to our arrangement. My heart sank a bit as I read the message. I set up the shot and took a picture more just for something to do as I processed this little zinger. He chose just this moment to run over and see what I was doing so I asked him with fake cheer (no pressure on him!) if he really meant the message. He replied by flinging himself at me for a fly-by-hug then skipping blithely back to his important excavation. I turned with a new weightlessness to photographing the conversation in the shallows ahead (Sho and his friend), resolving yet again to quit over-thinking things (but also reminding myself not to renege on my promise as often as I have of late, no matter how adorable that grin gets).
The next day, before the 11 year old left the island to return home (a day before us), we found ourselves on a similar rocky beach waiting for their ferry. As Oyon played tag with the waves, giggling maniacally with inexplicable glee, she sat next to me scratching something on a small smooth rock. I caught a glimpse of what this generous child had written as she carefully buried it by my side, with just a fleeting smile tossed in my direction.