Ocean Views

Beach Heat I, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 24x36

Beach Heat I, oil on canvas, 24×36

Beach Heat II, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 24x36

Beach Heat II, oil on canvas, 24×36

AFTER A DAY of being buffeted between sun and surf, my body begins to reveal its burn, deliciously fatigued. The week’s routine is simple, predictable:

Arrive early to beat the crowds. Baste with milky sunscreen. Soak in cold salt water. Churn in waves. Bake on beach. Repeat.

Scour tidal pools for private signs of life: feathery barnacles, weakened crabs, slow starfish. Stir barefoot in the hot sand. Ingest a carrot, bottled water, deviled egg. Soak in water, bake on beach. Repeat.

HEAT WAVES LEAP from beach to legs. Observe the fatal scramble of a one-winged seagull. Watch a distant sailboat slip below the horizon.

Turn. Struggle through five pages of Graham Greene. Doze, to the trill of red-winged blackbirds in syncopation with the blanket surf.

Turn. Slap a biting, green-eyed horsefly. Squint through darting, needle-thin dragonflies stitching seamless blue sky. Immerse in waves, bake on beach.

The day of extremes upends my equilibrium. Body stiffens, mind fuzzy. Feet merge with sand. I am goose-bumped, cool and hot, sunburn rising slowly like the tide across my torso.

Shadows lengthen. Thoughts drift like jellyfish to a cold shower, soothing aloe, medicinal martini, green olive drift to a sore, satisfying sleep.

I have waited for the privilege of this weary pain all year, this lack of pretense about who I am, the box I have put myself in, and this brief perspective. I’ll be back on the beach in a few short hours to experience the rare stillness of the peach-infused dawn. There is nothing else like it, and I’ve only got this week.

Ocean, Dawn, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 24x18

Ocean, Dawn, oil on canvas, 24×18

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