My happy place is the beach. Which is weird because it is, by its very nature, dirty. Between the sand and the vermin and the beer bellies and the peeing in the water. You’d think it would make me up my meds. I have seen skunk prints in the dunes, condom wrappers in the parking lot and swim diapers in tide pools. I still love the beach. I still feel best after a day there, with my skin slightly crisp and dry, my mouth slightly dehydrated and chalky.
My favorite is a bay side beach on Cape Cod where low tide goes on forever. You can walk out on the flats for miles, harassing hermit crabs, watching minnows, observing the water carve patterns through the sand. Once there was even a guitarist strumming chords in the surf and singing about love at sunset. My girls think of these as enforced marches from their comfortable chairs on the dunes to where the seagulls are doing gross things with crabs. Admittedly, it is a journey that involves some peril. I am careful not to step on jellyfish, stray feathers or discarded band aids.
Out of everything I have done to soothe my obsessions – compulsions, therapy, medication, meditation – my continual exposure to gross things at the beach has been the most effective.