A Brief Reflection On Sunset Beach

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Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

If you gave me the choice between a hike in the mountains or a trip to the beach, I would probably take the hike every time. I enjoy the beach: swimming can be fun for a while, and reading to the crash of the waves is always a pleasure, but a hike seems, to this writer at least, a far more interesting and peaceful journey. There is far less of the devilishly omnipresent sand, the general climate is often cooler, and one only has to deal with the stickiness of their own sweat, rather than compound the discomfort with that of salt water. But when it comes to dusk, most any beach can hold its own against the mountains.

Come sunset, the ocean’s shore may be the closest thing to what I imagine Eden to have been like.

The comforting rhythm of the waves and the coolness of the breeze as one walks barefoot along the water. The sun slowly sets, depending on your location, over the ocean itself or the dunes behind. An orange hue that never fails to enchant overtakes everything. There are far less squawking seagulls, though a sandpiper strolls along the waterline, awkwardly yet endearingly searching for a meal. The crowds of the afternoon have faded away, and the raucous, boisterous noise has fled.

But though the crowds have thinned, people still remain. And most interestingly of all, the people have changed.

It’s a phenomenon I haven’t quite been able to figure out, but one that I’ve observed time and time again. There is a decided difference between tourists on the beach during the day and visitors to the shore at night. A chaotic, stressed, anxious group in daylight is transformed into a cheerful, happy and contented group by night. Children run and splash in waste-deep water, a father stares out at the ocean with his son, a group of friends pose happily for a picture to commemorate their trip, a granddaughter supports her grandmother as she walks down the steps, a woman and her dog patrol the shore removing trash and debris, and an unknown stranger erects a mailbox for anonymous visitors, “kindred spirits,” to leave notes and recollections. Recollections of life. Recollections of nature. Recollections of death, hurt, love and loss. All given voice on the shores that seem to stretch eternally in either direction.

This. This is what the Creator intended life to be. Humanity in harmonious unity with both itself and nature. There is a different look in a person’s eye when they take an evening walk on the shore, there is a light there not often present. Communion is present. The sunset beach changes people, and I find it hard to believe that there isn’t some hint of the spiritual in its power.

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