As temperatures skyrocketed here and across much of the U.S. this weekend, we decided to flee the 90+ degree heat and 100+ degree heat index and head to our favorite beach escape, Block Island, an hour’s ferry ride from the Rhode Island coast. A wise move. As soon as we parked the car at Point Judith, I breathed in all the good salt air and sea breeze, and exhaled a sigh of relief.
The heat back home was bad enough, the humidity awful, so it was actually a pleasure to pull on a sweater for the windy ferry ride. After a light lunch at our favorite bagel cafe, we walked to the state beach and settled down with rented chairs, umbrella, and our books. Water temp was about 68 degrees F, not bath water, but not icy cold, either. As Al splashed in the surf, I waded up to my knees and was able to stand there for about 15 minutes. This, alone, was a major accomplishment. Usually all I can do is dip my toes for a few seconds to claim that I actually felt the Atlantic for another summer.
After a long walk up the beach and back, watching all the kids surfing on boogie boards and dogs catching balls and young engineers digging sand trenches or building castles, Al turned to me and said, “You coming in?” So I took his hand and allowed him to gently help me get a little further and a little further, up to my hips. Small waves rolled and splashed, and I shivered and jumped.
Years ago, when I was an avid ocean bather, I would just run right in, dive through a wave, then jump and float for as long as I could before I turned blue and my teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. I miss those days, but I’ve had to become extremely cautious about ocean swimming, both due to cold water temps here in New England and because of all my digital ulcers, which could get infected by the sea water.
On this particular hot, hot Sunday, however, with only two ulcers—one a perpetual scab on my left thumb and the other, an exposed piece of calcium lodged in my right thumb—I decided to take a chance. So I dived in. Then shrieked from the cold when I came up for air. But I did it. Two people nearby applauded. Al laughed. It’s been so long since we’ve been able to go into the ocean together. (Last time was three summers ago, in the warm Mediterranean waters along Elba, an island off the Italian coast. That time, I actually got to swim. Al got stung by a jellyfish.)
I didn’t last long. The water was just too cold for me to stay and play. It was refreshing. I remained mostly cool for the rest of the afternoon, aided by a steady sea breeze. By five, I had changed my bandages, we were back in our street clothes and heading up the beach, picking up sea glass on our way to dinner. We nosed around the little shops, caught up with our daughters by phone, and sailed back on the ferry beneath a stunning sunset. Traffic was heavy going home, but it didn’t spoil the day.
And I didn’t read the news. That was the greatest escape of all.