Almost spring on Craigville Beach.Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
Walk into the wind. This is the first rule of the winter beach walk. The bitter gusts will sting your cheeks and the salt-infused air might make your nose run (you have tissues, right?). Be sure your hood is snapped tight to the collar of your down coat.
You’ll set off, and quickly your walk will become a battle. You’ll wonder why you’re here in this weather. You’ll persevere for as long as you are able. Turning back, you will claim your reward. You will hear the repeating surf. You will consider the vastness of the ocean, and remember that map you saw online that shows if you swam in a straight line away from this beach, you’d land in South America. You will notice a constellation of gulls up ahead. And then you will realize: You are thinking about … nothing. The combination of wind and water has swept your mind clear. All your worries, your challenges—gone. In this empty space, you will walk with the wind at your back.
This is your December walk, your January walk. This is your February walk. Then comes March. The equinox arrives on schedule. Night and day are equal partners now. The sun begins to warm the inland places, but the chillier shore requires scarves and mittens. Still, the steel blue of winter—in sky and sea—is greening up. The harshness of the light is softening.
From the parking lot at Cape Cod’s Craigville Beach, I walk toward the water. At the high-tide mark, I pause to check the wind. Then, I hang a right.
The water is stirred up from last week’s storm, and my eyes are open for treasures. I’m not exactly beachcombing (I have overflowing baskets of shells and rocks at home), but I might be tempted by something shiny and portable: a piece of Coke bottle–green sea glass, or an orange jingle shell.
Walking into the wind today, I am walking into a glorious sunset. This seems a good bargain. I push harder, moving toward the deepening blue, the glowing golden light—apricot, streaked with the palest pink. There are many winter afternoons when I do not walk. Stopping by the beach on my way home from the post office, I’ll snap a photograph of the sky. If I printed all those images, I’d have baskets of sunsets, too.
I pass the boarded-up beach club, the floats and diving docks that spend the off-season on land. I pass the house that burned down and was rebuilt sideways. I tuck myself into a dune and sit for a few minutes, realizing: I’m warm enough to stop moving.
It won’t be tomorrow or the next day, or even next week. But soon, I’ll trade my down for corduroy. Next, I’ll ditch the gloves. And then one day—maybe late in April or in early May—I won’t walk into the wind. I’ll just walk. And that’s how I’ll know it’s spring.