Summer in New Hampshire — beautiful land of trees, mountains, lakes, and — the beach. In fact, there is so much nature here, the human population almost seems an afterthought. Small wonder that creature comforts often fall into that same category. Our modest cape home doesn’t have air conditioning, but I, heat intolerant as I am, inexplicably like it that way. There is a certain virtue in throwing the windows open late at night, fighting with errant insects, and flipping the switch on the noisy sucking contraption that is our attic fan. The house is much stingier about releasing amassed degrees than it is about hoarding them, but I celebrate the loss of each thermal unit. It also helps that we are near a beautiful, and cool, lake under the canopy of tall trees. In fact, I love everything about New Hampshire summers except the handful of triple-digit days, and…the beach.
I know for some this is heresy, but for a state that is second only to Maine for tree cover, the wide expanse of unprotected ocean front seems oddly out of place. Just last weekend we ventured to the shore for a birthday celebration, the lure of loved ones trumping sand. Our traffic app showed lines of red snaking to the shore; we resisted, hugging the back treed roads as long as we could. Parking was like an advanced game of Tetris. We kissed one car’s rear bumper, leaving enough room for someone to block us from behind, considering ourselves lucky as cars crept by in search of precious parking real estate. We had pulled up next to Dave, father to a one-year-old, and watched as he pulled a storage locker’s worth of paraphernalia out of his truck to maximize fun in the sun. The birthday girl greeted us. “Did you bring chairs?” Why, no; the only things we thought to bring were sunblock and a small cooler – no chairs, no towels, no umbrella, no snacks, no bug spray, no sunglasses, no hats, no thick-soled shoes. We were woefully unprepared.
Undaunted, we set off across the sand. I slipped off my flip flops, only to be rewarded by Venusian surface temperatures, the sand surrounding my feet in flesh-searing heat. I limped as fast as I could to the bone-chilling water. I could no longer feel my feet. The sun was unrelenting, complemented by the salty, sticky residue of ocean which gave my erupting sunburn a nice “bite.” As I chased shifting umbrella shade to preserve my pristine porcelain hue, others happily lounged in full sun, the better to build their burnished bronze surfaces. Nearly 120 minutes later, we retreated to cool air-conditioned shelter for lunch. All too soon, the sun worshippers were again lured by the siren call of steaming sand and frigid surf. I longed for cover. We went in the opposite direction, navigating the beach crowds to again seek the relative solitude of our tree canopy. I threw open the windows to the cooling air. It was good to be home.