It is the end of July, and I once again find myself in one of my favorite places -- sitting on a screened-in porch at a beach condo, ceiling fan spinning quietly above me. For the first time in the eight years that we've stayed in this complex, our porch faces the main road. I thought that would bother me, but here, main road or not, traffic is sparse and the sounds of the frogs and crickets dominate the night air.
I'm a Jersey girl, born and raised an hour north of the shore, but it wasn't until my adult years that I really came to appreciate a beach vacation. Growing up, we did the requisite day trips (where I inevitably got burned to a crisp) and the post-prom adventure that was more exhausting than romantic, but I never really grew to love the shore.
Now, as an adult, I appreciate it a great deal more. It's something I can no longer take for granted, as I no longer live just a hop, skip and a highway away. Coming for less than a long weekend seems almost counterproductive, as short trips mean that we spend as much time in the car as we do at our final destination.
But it's the relaxed pace of the beach I appreciate now -- something I couldn't possibly have understood when I was growing up. Back then, all of life operated at a relaxed pace. I had no responsibilities, and a vacation was something my parents planned and paid for. Now I'm the parent, one of the ones who plans and pays, and who understands the value of getting away to a place that inspires relaxation and tranquility.
Much of it also has to do with finding just the right place. Although it would be more convenient to stay close to the beach, we choose to stay in a beach community that's a ten minute drive from the shore. It's an upscale community, one that would have been out of reach to a bunch of high school or college kids looking to spend a weekend at the beach, more suited to families with kids than beachgoers who are just kids themselves. And because we return here every year -- at least once a year -- it feels like home. I gravitate to the screened-in porch in the mornings and evenings, and I think I feel more relaxed here than anywhere else in the world.
My muse likes it here, too, nudging me to crack open my laptop and spill my thoughts, to pull myself away from reading the novel that's a guilty pleasure at home but a way of life here and spin my own tales instead. The novel I'm revising was conceived here, and I sat on a screened-in porch just like this one, typing out a synopsis from a chaise lounge after a day at the beach.
When I leave to go home, I miss the screened-in porch most of all. I find it difficult to recapture the simplicity that comes so easily here, and I often wonder if creating a similar space at home would make that easier. We've considered it more than once, but so far, this screened-in porch -- or one just like it within this complex -- is my one and only.