This past week, due to changing patterns in my circadian rhythms, I found myself at the beach at 730 in the morning. Unfortunately, this was not because I had awoken there after a smoke filled night of frivolity. Rather, it was because I was awake, had been for some time, and couldn’t lie in bed any longer. How awfully embarrassing…and on the weekend no less!
But rather than start the day by quietly folding the clean laundry piled up beside my bed, some inexplicable force propelled me to get dressed when I didn’t actually need to be dressed, and drive to the beach. This demented behavior, accompanied by the freakish impulse to ‘go for a walk’ or ‘stretch’, has me thinking that I am getting old, and fast.
Once upon a time, mornings were spent either in bed or school, neither of which required anything other than a pulse. With maturation, and the onset of responsibilities such as new jobs or new kids, mornings were something to fumble through resentfully, accompanied by a coffee mug humorously describing my cranky sentiments. More recently though, as jobs and kids no longer demand my immediate awake attention, mornings have become mine again to ignore. Of course I assumed that this would mean a return to my old ways, and envisioned myself as an overgrown teenager in funny cartoon pajamas, sprawled out unconsciously at 11:30 am, one arm hanging over the side of the bed, drool dripping onto my mismatched pillow cases. But I was wrong.
Something has changed, and I fear for my youth. Mornings scream for my attention like a baby, begging to be fed, refusing to be pacified by horizontal, one-eyed Facebook scrolling. My body, once useless until an influx of caffeine, is pulsating with energy. My mind, always useless, is buzzing with positive thoughts I likely contracted from some stupid Zen website, urging me to arise and greet the sun. These days, I am awake at 6am with the birds and old people. Kids get themselves breakfast, and banking is done online, nothing needs me before 11am. Yet I am awake.
The morning I ended up at the beach was a result of many consecutive mornings lying restlessly in bed, agonizing over my inability to sleep late and make better use of my time, cursing the clock for not depicting a more respectable time. It seemed like a good enough idea. I love the beach. I go whenever I can, but never before 12pm. I go heavily laden, with bags and boards and beers. I carefully ascertain the best place to sit in order to avoid contact with other humans while maintaining a reasonable distance to my car and the bathroom. It is a test of how long you can remain inactive, and one breaks form only to take a dip or buy ice-cream. The beach is where beautiful people come to get more beautiful, where late sleepers come to relax after waking up.
But what I discovered that day is that the beach is not loyal! It does not sit in anticipation of the midday arrival of its bronze beauties. Instead, it lies there, unashamed, letting itself be trampled upon by a people who arrive at ungodly hours to defile its pristine sands. They are the morning people, and while everyone else is still in bed, the beach is where they roam. They are comprised of Russians, women from England, and fitness enthusiasts. Each group comes for their own reasons: English women because they will melt by noon, runners to avoid heatstroke and having to leap over children building sandcastles. And Russians, well I’m not sure, but they seem unaware that it is dawn, and arrive fully equipped for a day at the beach, with their entire family and their cigarettes, sprawled out on blankets and splashing about with the vigor of someone who has slept late. Morning people are strange beings. They smile and chat to one another despite the early hour, they move their bodies in strange ways, they turn red, and they care not for the universal rule: ‘If it jiggles, cover it up’.
The air is cool, the sky blue, the water so clear you can see straight to the garbage below…but I am distracted, dismayed, disturbed by this startling anthropological discovery. So many questions – How did I not know about this? Have all of these people set alarms on the weekend? Did they drink their coffee already? Why do the runners hold their sneakers in their hands? And, what do these people do with the rest of their day, once they have returned home, washed off and had breakfast?
Just as the sun reaches a more familiar position in the sky, and the sand begins to absorb its warmth, the morning people disappear, leaving behind only their evenly spaced footprints and cigarette butts as proof of their existence. They are making room for the rightful owners of the beach, those who have not yet considered the effect that time and UV rays have on the human body, those for whom going to the beach is the ends, not the means. Tight brown skin replaces red and saggy. The ocean is littered with people who look like they are shooting an MTV video. Children burst onto the scene followed by parents desperate to leave parenting up to the lifeguards. Radios blare offensively. Sand covered food is consumed. They begin to set up their temporary home, decorated with towels and held down by coolers. They get comfortable, settle in for a long afternoon, legs and mouths spread wide open for all to enjoy.
I tremble nervously, now unsure of which beach shift I belong to. I came here today because I couldn’t figure out what to do with this new abundance of morning. I had no intention of making it part of some healthy lifestyle habit. Nothing could ever force me to wear lycra or chat to a walking partner. I go the beach because it’s there, its just another benefit of living in Israel, like socialized healthcare and good looking men. Oh but the crisp morning air was really quite refreshing! And the sounds of crashing waves did kind of get my creative juices flowing. I found myself making a half hearted attempt at a yoga-type squat thing close to the shore while concentrating intensely on nothingness, but was gripped by the sudden fear of my iPhone falling in the wet sand, and distracted by what I briefly thought were ISIS flags flapping in the breeze, as well as the urge to pee and the need for caffeine.
Mornings are for sleeping, beaches are for afternoons. No, I am not ready to join the morning people. I’m still too young, too tired. Perhaps, unlike toddlers, if I push my bedtime off further, I will sleep later. It was all just a silly mistake. Relieved, I made my way back to the car, passing my comrades who were only just arriving. I couldn’t exactly remember where I parked, but it’s not because I’m getting old, its because I got up too early.