This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.
The air has that unmistakable crispness to it, the leaves are dying in a blaze of colourful glory and the word pumpkin is plastered on every other sign, which, to me, means it’s time to hit the beach.
The beach in the summer is not my favourite place. I will make a trip or two for the kids to dig in the sand and splash in the waves, but I never go on my own and I don’t spend very much time there. Too hot, too many accessories to drag around, too dry and sandy.
The beach in the fall though? Now that I can get behind. I recently visited Cleveland Beach near Queensland with my family. The drive there alone was breathtakingly beautiful in itself, switching from coastal views to autumn colour splendour every few kilometeres. Upon arrival to the beach I see that we’re one of only a couple visitors today, compared to a hot August day when we’d likely be parked way down the road.
I hand a couple sand buckets and shovels to my children and send them on their way and my husband and I follow along at a leisurely pace. No crowds to struggle through, no worry of the children getting lost as the only other people I can spot are way down on the rocks with their dogs.
Periodically the children come back and show us their finds — rocks and wood beaten by the sea until they’ve become smooth and soft, seaweed that they imagine is a witch’s hair, shards of shells that didn’t make their arrival to land safely.
They dig holes in the sand, bury a rock, cover it up and mark the treasure spot with an X. They scamper close to the water’s edge, then squeal in delight and dart backwards as the waves lap the toes of their rubber boots.
My son carefully selects rocks and tosses them into the ocean, enjoying the thrill of throwing rocks without reprimand. I see him examining something closely and I realize he’s locked into a staring contest with a crab.
I use a stick to help him nudge the crab into his bucket of sand and we watch the crab clutch onto the stick as if his life depended on it. We talk about what a crab is and how he lives, then we release him back onto the beach and he skitters away in that silly sideways shuffle.
My daughter shows me the “jewels” she has discovered. They are small, dime-sized clear gelatinous blobs dotted along the shoreline,
Every time the waves rush in, they drop a few more along the water’s edge, then go back out for more. She tells me they’re mermaid tears.
We enjoy lunch on the picnic tables in the grassy area next to the beach and, with a quick kick of our rubber boots to shake off the remaining wet sand, we are ready to go. During the drive home the children delightedly retell great tales of their adventures.
The summer may be but a memory now but we aren’t Canada’s Ocean Playground only once a year - go outside and explore your favourite beaches in every season and get to know them in a whole new way.