As a child, I couldn’t wait to run into the ocean, and I mean run – full speed ahead, who cares if it’s cold, run and fall right into that salty water. Catch a wave, ride it to shore. My father would join me occasionally, my mother never, my sisters to a point, but I would stay there forever if I could. As a teenager, my enthusiasm had diminished, but not much, although seaweed, especially the red algae that floated in millions of tiny pieces, kept me away, as did the threat of jellyfish in the warmer waters of late August.
The beach has lost some of its allure for me, unfortunately. I attribute it to various causes: now I’m very aware of the fact that the ocean is not all that clean (seriously, how is it that the Department of Environmental Management advises us to not swim at Scarborough one day and then the next day it’s fine?); the beach itself, and the general areas – bathhouses, restrooms, parking lots – are littered with cans, bottles, pizza boxes, dirty diapers; my sister saw a sanitary napkin float by her while she was swimming in the ocean last week; I’m less tolerant of the sun and heat and need to reapply SPF50 constantly for fear of melanoma, while it was a rite of passage to get a blistering sunburn at the start of every summer, soothed by Mom rubbing Noxzema all over my shoulders and back.
But the mountains! Ever since I spent that year in Switzerland (and perhaps before that, with summer vacations to New Hampshire), I’ve been in love with the mountains. Majestic, towering, some topped with snow year-round. My husband feels the same way, telling me he feels protected when he’s surrounded by mountains. He owes it to his mother, who was born, raised and lived in Salzburg, Austria, until her head was turned by a cocky Army sergeant who convinced her to join him in America. We seem happiest when we’re cradled by the peaks around us.
So next month we’ll head south to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. While we’re there, we’ll look around to see if this is a place for us to live out the rest of our lives. Who knows? We won’t, not until we see what’s there. And in the meantime, we’ll head up north to walk the beaches in Maine, where the water never warms up!