Living in Southern California, it’s easy to forget the beauty of the beach, the privilege it is to be relatively coastal – just like how it’s easy to take for granted the temperate weather and abundant sunshine.
I hadn’t been to the beach in ages, and so for my birthday this year, I asked my friends to join me for a day by the shore. We went to Huntington Beach in Orange County, famous for its year-round surfing conditions – hence the nickname “Surf City.”
The timing was kind of perfect because my birthday weekend was the tail-end of a heatwave, and an ocean breeze and cool waves are a nice way to combat that. We were lucky too that Huntington Beach ended up not being as crowded as some of the other SoCal beaches that weekend.
We had cold drinks and built sand-castles. My friend body-boarded with a garland of kelp around her shoulders, and I thought of capaill uisce* rising out of the waves as they rushed past me towards the sand. It was nice to actually be in the ocean, in water that will fight you and move you, water that is alive. I hadn’t gone into the sea since I was a kid, and I think I’d forgotten a little how invigorating and downright magical it is.
As golden hour came upon us, we changed and packed up our things to move further up the beach. The Sister took advantage of the lighting to snap some Alexander Hamilton-related photos (he grew up on an island) for a contest, and it was funny and fitting that such history geekery would be part of my birthday.
My birthday celebration was also the perfect opportunity to cross off another item on my Thirty before 30 list: bonfire on the beach! Somehow despite being a SoCal native, I had never done this quintessential SoCal thing. The bonfire was another reason we chose Huntington Beach: it has an abundance of fire pits -first come, first serve.
With the sunset making the sky blush, we set up around our pit, got the fire going, and brought out our dinner of hot dogs and buttered corn. I had party favors for everyone – crazy straws and superhero masks. (No one should be surprised by the latter.)
Of course, to end the night, we had s’mores (and birthday cupcakes courtesy of my friend). We also shared a few embarrassing stories, discussed s’mores roasting technique, and what it takes to please the gods of the fire pit. Then, in the grand tradition of the Midnight Society**, I told a real life ghost story to my friends gathered around the fire as the stars winked in the inky sky above us.
We ended the night with a toast of cactus cooler and a handful of sand to help douse the remaining embers of our fire. Then, we went our separate ways.
As my sister drove us away from the dark beach, I noticed the streets we passed – Hamilton, Adams, Yorktown – all U.S. Revolutionary War names. And then a text came from one of my friends, noting the same thing and reflecting my sentiments exactly:
“I love happy coincidences.”
It was a good start to 29.***
*The water horses from Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. **Anyone used to watch Are You Afraid of the Dark?? ***Got some sweet news that day too, but more on that later. Supplement: (Music) Free | Ryn Weaver (Music) Shine | Years & Years (Book) The Scorpio Races | Maggie Stiefvater