I went to the beach last week. It’s counter intuitive, but winter is the best time to go to the beach. It’s a lot less crowded and you can always find the best shells. So at least once every winter, I head out to the beach.
It’s the only place in New England where I can go that I feel like it’s somewhat similar to the prairie where I grew up. There’s a vast, flat horizon I can look out to the very edge of and wonder what’s on the other side. I always loved that about the prairies. They seemed endless, always urging you to take another step forward, to keep going and not give up because you aren’t there yet.
The beach is the same way. The wind beats against you, moving the waves in the ocean, the grass on the prairie. Birds fly overhead, crying to each other before flying away. Masts from far of boats poke up along with craggy islands that could otherwise be the water towers or short stubby prairie shrubs. The salt air is as fresh as roasted smell of the prairie on a hot day. They’re different, but they’re the same.
I always loved the prairie sunsets. The day before I left Kansas for New England, a friend and I headed out to the prairie and sat on my car hood to watch the sun go down while I tried to take pictures of it to take with me. They weren’t any good; my camera was a piece of crap. I’ve never been very visual anyway. We talked about the past, about our futures, about our plans. And we said good bye.
She stayed in Wichita with her mother and husband, though we’ve always met up on visits to catch up. “It’s funny,” she told me once, “I wondered before we got together how different it would be, but nothing’s changed really. You’re still just the same.” We connected then just as well as ever.
This year she moved. The doctor whose office her mom worked at was stabbed and murdered by a patient right in front of her and the trauma was just too much to stay in the same town. Now when I come to visit, we’ll have to go a bit farther afield to get together. But we’ll still meet up. It will still be the same, though different.
I’ve often wondered if beach sunsets are as pretty as prairie ones. Unfortunately, I’m in the wrong place to find out. Laura Ingalls Wilder always loved prairie sunrises; she was always up early enough to catch them.
Beyond the lake’s eastern shore the pale sky was bordered with bands of crimson and gold. Their brightness stretched around the south shore and shone on the high bank that stood up from the water in the east and the north…Shafts of golden light shot higher and higher in the eastern sky, until their brightness touched the water and reflected there. Then the sun, a golden ball, rolled over the eastern edge of the world.
—By the Shores of Silver Lake, p. 71-72
One of these days, I’ll have to head out to the beach and see if I can catch a beach sunrise.