It’s 6:00 A.M., and the radio disc jockey is laughing and chattering like a salesman working on commission. I reach for the knob and shut him down.
The air is wet and heavy. I crack the window and inhale the scent of salt and pluff mud as I drive across the two mile bridge that connects the small island town with the mainland. The Weather Channel says we should expect clouds with light rain, heavy fog, and onshore winds of 25-35 miles per hour. The current temperature is 27 degrees, with an expected high of 38. It’s going to be a miserable day. I love it.
The marsh is invisible, screened from sight by a dense fog that rolls across the bridge. Traffic is light, even for a Tuesday morning in late January. It’s still a bit early for the school buses to collect the children, and the lawyers, bankers, and doctors to begin their commute to downtown Charleston.
I stop at the lone traffic light on the island. Nothing is moving. The light turns green and I continue the short distance to Ocean Boulevard. I would never park here during the summer.
A gust of wind rocks me as I step out of the car. I look down the road and see nothing but pale street lights. The mist is swirling as spectral shapes dance behind the wet curtain. I think of some town from the Old West…maybe Dodge or Tombstone.
A tumbleweed disguised as a Subway wrapper hurries across the road. I lock the car and take a minute to scrutinize the fog. If Doc Holliday is waiting for me, I want to be ready. He may try to shoot me or he may offer to buy me a breakfast whiskey. I don’t like either choice, so I head for the beach.
The sand is wet and clumpy as I make my way down to the water. The onshore wind and the spray from the rain and waves slam me in the face. I close my eyes and feel the force of nature. I can hear the gulls shrieking. I open my eyes and watch the plovers and sandpipers racing down to the water’s edge before skittering away when a wave crashes onto the sand. Brown pelicans skim the surface looking for a seafood breakfast or perhaps an abandoned box of McDonalds fries.
I turn south and head down the beach. I smile as the wind and rain clamor for my attention. I’m alone. The tourists and college students are long gone, along with the smells and sounds of suntan lotion, cold beer, loud music, and goatish laughter. They’ll be back in a few months, but for now the beach belongs to me.
The wind is blowing spray off the tops of the waves as it pushes fine sheets of rain toward the shore. I turn toward the ocean and open my mouth to receive the day. The wind, the water, the rain, and the beach are mine. At least for now.