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  • Writer's pictureMichael Pearce

A Great Day to Be Alive

It was a rare "beach day" mid-week. The temps were soaring toward 100 inland, which meant that the coast would be quite warm in the absence of fog. I packed up towels, a beach blanket, and a kite, and off we went.

As we parked the car, I checked the outside air temp: 86. Northern Californians know that such a high temp along ocean waters in early fall is a gift. We found a spot and promptly launched the purple, pink, yellow, and green butterfly kite. Like the coastal temperature, it soared.

I was hoping an afternoon by the water would calm the nerves. As it is with life, there was some bad news recently, on top of disruptions among close-knit friends, and a few health concerns. Also, we had just added yet another cancellation to the very long list of Trips Canceled Due to Covid. What happened to two weeks to flatten the curve?

As we strolled along the quiet beach, toes digging into wet sand, I inhaled the salty sea air. There is something about the scent which both invigorates and pacifies the mind and body. With views of sparking water, wispy waves, and distant mist-laden hills, the whole experience has the power to soothe the soul.

I know the combination of these natural ingredients unlocks a tense body and brings peace and joy to my son. I've seen it work without fail. And while we walked, I consciously allowed myself to soak up the beauty surrounding us. I was feeling happy and soothed.

Suddenly, a man in a wet suit came running from the water holding a bar and lines attached to a kite. The U-shaped kite figure-eighted crazily as it came down from the sky toward the sand. I stopped walking, and we backed up. It was hard to tell who was in control. A woman sitting on a beach chair looked up and sprinted away as the kite plunged below the tree line.

Some men in the background were able to grab the kitesurfing lines and bring the errant kite down safely. So on we walked. Certainly didn't need the day marred by some type of random, harmful event!

Not more than two minutes later, a searing sensation struck my foot. Thinking I stepped on a sharp shell, I took another step to avoid coming down harder on a sharp edge. OWWWW! This time the pain shot through the bottom of my foot. Stopping, I grabbed my ankle and almost fell over trying to inspect the sole of my foot. I looked for a jellyfish.

Zach kept walking along happily while I discovered not a jellyfish but a fluttering bee. It was wedged between the pinkie toe and the next one, repeatedly pushing its stinger into my skin. I yelped, and Zach turned around. His face showed concern.

"Mom just got..." I could not bring myself to tell him a bee stung me - he adores bees!

"Mom just stepped on a wasp and it stung me." I hoped that would suffice.

Now I risked that little joy-canceling insect doing something to my finger as I flicked it from the crevice between my toes (do they have fangs?). A few choice words flew from my mouth. Zach stood there with an expression that said can we keep going or we are done? I was afraid we were done. The venom had doubled the size of the affected toes.

I just wanted to cry. I know in the scheme of things, a sting is no big deal (unless one is allergic, and then it's quite an ordeal of course). But I just craved some calmness and was actually achieving it until the innocent placement of a bare foot on wet sand resulted in the bursting of the calm bubble.

And it was my birthday.

I didn't cry, even when I realized, after pretzeling my body to check the toes, that the stinger and the little sack it's attached to were still implanted in my skin. Again: OWWWWWWWW.

It took a lot of deep-breathing and cussing along with a stop at Walgreens to handle this. As we headed home, I considered the sadness I felt knowing we had missed a perfectly good opportunity for watching the sun set over the salty waters. That would have been the icing on the cake. I hung my head.

Would I remember the day for the moments of peace and contentment we did experience, however elusive they were? Or would I be stuck with feeling ultra-irritated by the pesky insect with a needle on its butt? Maybe on that warm day the bee just wanted to check out the cool sand.

I would choose the former (after the swelling and throbbing subsided). The memory of happiness could be just as strong as the sting. We humans just have to work harder at keeping what's positive in the forefront. Beaches are always going to be there, and there would be many more sunsets to watch. But not for the bee.


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