The waves crest in and out, gray and blue, as the sun rises over the expanse of dawn-rose sand. In the NJ beach city I’m visiting, the sandy stretch is long and wide thanks to the humungous efforts of the state to save and preserve its beaches.
But of course that’s not what I’m concentrating on as I walk a mesmerizing pace past one empty lifeguard stand to another, each one symbolizing the length of two blocks.
I focus my attention, instead, on the being that’s following me, slowly, lazily, in the water as I stride on the beach in fierce wonder.
Throughout the week my grandkids – 3, 7, 8 years old – have regaled me with facts of the shark and the megalodon, the tyrannosaurus and the brontosaurus. I see those creatures in my sleep, large and dangerous, teeth sharp and serious.
But on this dawn walk I discover another creature entirely. She can’t be, and yet there she is, taunting me as she glides along just 10 yards from the shoreline, slinking in and out of the waves with such grace and guilelessness that my breath stops.
She can’t be.
Yet, her blue florescent reptilian-like skin gleams purple in the rising peach sun. Her tail is long and pointed with a prong at the end. Her face …
. . . her face is more beautiful than a newborn babe’s. More peaceful than a pink peony. Her countenance shines brighter than the wisest prophet, and her eyes shine wisdom unknown to humans.
I walk on, waiting, wishing, for a word from her.
But she’s silent.
We visit like this for a mile: I walk slickly along the sand, she glides like an eel in the feet-away sea.
The silence is as loud as a prayer.
When I pass the twelfth lifeguard stand, she disappears.
I stop and stare out in the open ocean, at first bereft with loss, but then joyous beyond belief.
And that’s the problem, who will possibly believe me?
I turn around, a bit irate that I now have 24 sandy blocks to walk back to our rental house. But in that time, I decide exactly who to share my tale.
The children – who believe in megalodons and dinosaurs.
But my shock at their reaction stings me to the core.
The 7- and 8-year old begin to listen open-mouthed as I tell them of my encounter. They’re patient as I describe the color of the sky, the feel of the sand, the sound of the ocean. But when I get to the wondrous female creature … their eyes roll and they turn their heads away from me.
Oh, it’s just Madre telling one of her stories.
He believes in knights and pirates and Crustacean monsters.
But he shakes his head in firm disapproval of my own fantastical oceanic account and follows his brother and sister out of the room.
Do you believe me?