The beach doesn't care what you look like
You stake your claim with an old sheet and a couple of rust-hinged, plastic-ribbed beach chairs. Arrange the emblems of your tiny colonial outpost – the cooler here, the flip-flops there, the picnic basket anchoring that far corner. Then chase down the kids – already water-bound – with the sunblock. And at last, you go too, into the waves that froth like Sprite around your ankles, the waves that somehow always feel like home.
And this is it: this delicious, delirious lift of water, so bountiful and beneficent that it's not a leap to imagine the pelicans' wings are outstretched in benediction. Lying back as in a recliner, you rock and rest beneath the few coastal clouds. You watch the slow progress of a shrimp boat, surrounded by so great a cloud of feathered witnesses.
Here we are. All of us, out to enjoy one of summer's final weekends at Folly Beach County Park in Charleston, South Carolina, ready for a collective letting-go. Large and thin, dark and pale – we have all come to steep ourselves in the surf's hiss, in the sun, in the bright blueness of this day. You marvel for a moment in the utter democracy of it, that this afternoon we've all plunged into the sea's salty broth to turn ourselves into one big soup of humanity.
The kids on their boogie boards, the mother and daughter in hijabs, the tattooed couple, the muscled college guys. The shell-hunting grandparents, the babies in their funny hats and middle-aged parents in theirs. We are all here because the beach is for everyone. And from all appearances, no one is concerned about appearances – not others' or their own.
For in fact, we all want the same thing: to dig holes and watch them fill up. To eat potato chips under the leering eyes of hungry gulls. To lie on our beach chairs and gaze at the horizon's dark line with minds scoured free of thought. To rock back in these waters in pursuit of what we long for the most – the knowledge that we are held up by something bigger than ourselves.
The beach doesn't care who we are and it doesn't care what we look like. It doesn't register sagging flesh or youthful beauty or general signs of wear. It's just a good place to be alone, together.