Monday, July 20, 2015

Twisted ocean trees

It's beach time of year.

Many of the flowers that grow at the beach also grow in my area, closer to the middle of the state. Although the soil there is sandier and saltier, it still manages to support many of the same plants.

But there are some differences. The tendency of hydrangea to bloom more pink than blue, for example. And there are sand burs, and more morning glories. The dirt grows hotter, and when crossing fields, the spaces between the rows of veggies are silvery-white, not loam black.

The trees, too, are different. The beach wind shapes and twists the trees into strange architectures, not the tall and proud and straight-backed trees of home, but rather coiled and twisting dancers leaning away from the constant buffeting sea breezes.

And it's the smell of the air (salty and wet), and the taste of the tap water (a touch of brine in every sip). It's the bird calls (seagulls overriding the chirpers) and the bleaching of the brightly-colored buildings, where salty air has worn away the paint.

The little details set the location, really make it feel real. Usually it's the smallest, most minute little things that make stories feel real, that give the shape of the setting. And it's the stories grandparents tell, the way they set their memories in terms of what they knew, what they were doing, where they were. That's what makes it feel real to me.

I think of all the things about the beach, the twisting trees are the most iconic to me. More than anything else, a stand of half-bent trees leaning away all in the same direction tells me I'm near the ocean.

What details really make you feel like you're in a favorite vacation spot?

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