When I awoke this morning, I tiptoed to the front door of our cabin. A burst of cool, fall-like air rushed towards me when I opened the door, and I shivered, closing the door quickly. Already? Through the window, I could make out the neat formation of a flock of birds flying in the distance, following the shoreline south.
There have been signs that it’s time now to pack up the van and go. Our travel size tubes of toothpaste are squeezed flat and empty. We’ve tired of the same old rumpled t-shirts and shorts in our suitcases and the way they hold the cool, musty dampness of the ocean air. We’re weary of the grains of sand that have found their way into everything— our clothes, our books, the skin between our toes.
And they say there's a chance of a hurricane making it's way up the coast next week.
Friends from home have begun to call and leave us messages: Where are you guys? Aren’t you coming home soon? When do your MC classes start? Did you get into that class you wanted? Is Will excited about starting middle school?
Seasons come, and seasons go.
After Will woke up we walked down to the main building to find Scott, who owns and manages the cabins. He is a worried-looking man in his early 50’s, tall and thin. Around his neck he wears an unusually large, heavy, wooden cross that hangs from a leather cord and dangles low on his waist. There is an air of sadness that surrounds him. For this reason, it always comes as a surprise that when Scott speaks, he smiles easily. And when he smiles, his entire face lights up, like the sun breaking through clouds on an overcast day.
Now, though, Scott is sad to hear that we’re leaving.
But he is used to this. He knows that this is the way it has to be.
People come, and people go.
We spend our last afternoon down at the beach, watching the ocean waves, listening. We breathe in deeply, filling our lungs with ocean air. We close our eyes and listen to the surf, wondering how long we’ll be able to hold it in our memories.
We stay late, neither of us wanting it to end. Families slowly drift off. They pack up their umbrellas and beach chairs and blankets and coolers, and then trudge wearily towards their cars. The seagulls return, circling low before landing in the sand.
When we take our final walk along the beach, it is almost empty. We don’t bother gathering beautiful pink shells and lovely smooth stones in our plastic bucket. The shells and stones don’t belong in our cluttered desk drawers at home, mixed in with broken pens and smudged, dirty erasers and paper clips–we know that.
They belong here, with the waves tossing them up on the sand, then sucking them back in, over and over and over again.