fishing, surf, and surf fishing

As promised, Sean took me out to the beach yesterday morning to try surf fishing.

IMG_2690He tried getting a cast beyond the breaking waves and couldn’t quite do it: The waves were monumental and those rods are heavy. We opted to give up on the fishing and just enjoy the surf. He and I each grabbed a boogie board and kicked out into the froth, grinning at each other and waiting out the subpar waves. That perfect one galloped in, glittering in the morning light and humming, ready to roll at just the right moment. I started kicking, and the wave made me weightless.

In the fraction of a second after that, I did something clumsy and the wave cackled and gripped me tight and I was perpendicular to the sand, my feet straight up, still a part of the wave, tumbling with all that water. I felt my face scrape the bottom, my nose taking most of the impact, I thought “this might hurt. I hope my nose isn’t broken” and suddenly I found myself on my feet. My face felt numb and runny, and when I put my hand to it the first time, it came away clean, then the second time there was blood. Sean was smiling at the edge of the water: the same wave had carried him to shore. As I walked up to him, the smile dropped away and he came rushing to get a closer look, make sure I was okay.

I’m fine, but I look about like C did when he and his brother crashed their four-0wheeler into a tree last year. Skin is missing in a stripe from my chin to my forehead, right along the length of my nose. Nothing is broken, I still have all of my teeth, and the worst of it was the sting of being stuck ashore all day yesterday. I had to wait for the sticky phase to pass so that I could play again, and I didn’t want get sun on the antibacterial gel that’s been basting my face like a roast turkey: The last thing I need is a burn.

The good news is that Sean’s cousin J caught a shark last night surf fishing! It can be done!IMG_2693

Nobody else caught anything, though we stuck it out until well after dark, enjoying the bioluminescent critters in the sand and a special delivery peach cobbler.

IMG_2701

Sean’s cousin R took us out in the whaler this morning, seeking flounder in the intracoastal. That dude is a daredevil! I grew up on boats and I’ve seen scary, and this ride made the hair on my neck stand up. We tried several different spots, zipping across the chop to a new location after fifteen or twenty minutes with little or no luck. In our last few minutes, fishing off a sandbar between grass flats, I hooked a flounder! His face is almost as flattened as mine! Flounder need to be fifteen inches, so we couldn’t keep him, but I was proud of myself. J caught another shark today and a little stripey guy, and she and I each caught a sea trout. Sean caught one little striped critter, and R didn’t snag any fish. Conclusion: fishergirls > fisherguys. J is, of course, queen of the fishergirls.IMG_2710

We’re hoping all this talk of a hurricane (named Arthur, of all things) is trumped up. I’m not ready to leave yet: my face has just set its scabs well enough that I can swim again, and I haven’t won a single game of bocce. I’m not ready to go back to the garden and the humidity and summer school and solitude. Everybody get together, take a deep breath, and blow hard at that storm. Maybe, if enough folks try it, we can knock that storm off course and buy me just a few more days.

salt and sunblock

I’m writing from the upstairs balcony of the beach house that Sean’s family has rented for the week. Sean’s Granny turned 90 years old today, and her seven children and their children are here to celebrate. There is a warm breeze blowing across my bare toes and I can hear waves crashing on the beach and younger cousins giggling down below. If it were daytime, I’d be on the lookout for pelicans and sailors on the horizon, but for now I’m just enjoying the dark and letting the salt in the air and the starched ruffle sound of the surf heal my long homesickness for the Atlantic.

Image

There are thirty of us here, all of them Sean’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and inlaws, with a few outlaws like me for flavor. I’m still working on getting the names and relationships straight, though I’ve met most of them before. The aunts have done a tremendous job at the helm of this operation: with thirty in one house, organization is key. There is a schedule for cooking duty and cleanup crew, and everyone was assigned a sleeping-spot before we arrived. A pullout couch in the basement was designated for Sean and me, but last night we dragged our mattress off of the uncomfortable frame and laid it out on the pool deck. We crashed quickly, exhausted from a long sunburnt day of swimming and reading and bocce on the beach. Our eyelids fell closed on stars that glittered like mica in the sky, while to our drifting-off ears the hush and whisper of waves on the beach fell silent.

The sunrise woke us – I love sleeping out! – and we dozed and woke and watched the sky brighten and dozed off again. Some of the uncles and cousins went surf fishing this morning, and rumor has it that someone caught a small shark. Sean has promised to take me tomorrow. I can’t wait to leap out of bed and get salty first thing

Because today was the big birthday and Sean was on dinner-duty, we spent much of the day in the kitchen making cupcakes. There was a respite in the afternoon, so we played in the water for a while and then constructed what became easily the best sandcastle I’ve had a part in for ten years. Sean built a bridge over a river and made sure to have farms for food security and huts for the peasants, while his cousin Matt built gorgeous crenellations along the exterior wall and I erected a tower for the inner keep.

Image

Sean’s Granny is an astonishing lady, and it is a pleasure to know her. She’s more alive at 90 than many elders are at 70, and, although I have met her only once or twice before, she has taught me essential lessons about pinochle, which is a foundational life skill. More importantly, I have her to thank for the man who has become my partner.

She and Sean have been talking for nearly an hour now. The birthday feast was laid out on the deck, and I can look down to where they’re still sitting side by side. The dishes, and now the tables and chairs, have been cleared away around them, but they still have their heads bent in, their shoulders a hair’s breadth apart, for all the world as if they haven’t yet realized that the party has burned down to the ember of their conversation. I can’t hear their voices over the waves, but their hands are talking, each gesturing in turn. It’s lovely to see, so I think I’m going to perch up here for a while longer, drinking in this sweet, warm, North Carolina night.

Image