The Beach Effect

I may not go to the beach every day, but there’s something magic about knowing it’s there.


By Tony D’Souza

When I first arrived here in 1998, I’d feel guilty if I missed a week without going to the beach. Time passed, and that became a month. These days, a year might go by and I’ll think to myself, “Jeez, when was I last at the beach?”

Life gets on you, even in Sarasota. I might think of having a beach day, and then I’ll imagine fighting for a parking space, all the sand that will get in my car, and the kids and I go to Mote or Myakka instead. The regret grows less the longer I stay. After all, the beach is always here, the easiest thing to take for granted.

The late Shel Silverstein wrote a classic children’s book that my mother read to me, The Giving Tree. I’m now reading the book to my kids. In it, a boy grows up in love with an apple tree, and the tree loves him, too. As he ages, the tree lets him cut her down to build his house. In the end, all she has left to give him is her stump, which the boy, an old man now, is grateful to sit on.

Our beach has given me as much as that tree. One day about eight years ago, I took a girlfriend to the beach. We waded in the water and were surrounded by thousands of little silver fishes. We caught them in our hands, acted silly and threw them into one another’s hair. We took the children we eventually had to the beach as babies, watched them discover shells and eat its sand.

Both of my kids learned to walk on this beach, which gently caught them when they fell. The beach was here in my darkest hour, after my divorce, when I needed a place to just sit.

Life has its hurricanes, and our beach is always here. Life renews and has its sunny days, and our beach is always here. I may not go to the beach every day, but I’m always glad when I do. I love looking back and seeing mine and my children’s footprints in a long trail together in the sand. That the beach always washes them away feels just right, too.

Novelist and contributing editor Tony D’Souza also writes for such publications as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Esquire.