In my junior year of college, I took a creative nonfiction course. I figured it would be fun to write about my own experiences in a way that made them sound like someone else’s. I was right and wrong. Right in that it was fun to revisit old memories, wrong in the sense that it was a headache to make each one drip with sensory imagery to the point where they started to sound corny. But there was one that I didn’t mind as much, and that was the one in which I wrote about my experience snorkeling with wild dolphins off the Big Island of Hawaii entitled “Open My Eyes.” A quick snippet reads: “I became addicted to the sound of my breath blowing in and out of a snorkel. We floated lazily over stunning coral and watched multi-colored fish dart in and out. Colors always seem brighter underwater; the yellows and pinks and turquoises of the fish looked so much more vibrant than they would if they were viewed on land. […] My face hit the water and I was home. That was the way I always felt when attached to a mask and snorkel […]” The rest, if you’re interested, can be read here. But yeah, it’s safe to say snorkeling is one of the great loves of my life. In a couple weeks, I hope to try SNUBA and also possibly take a diving class while vacationing in the Caribbean. (And yes, that’s me to the right, being a waterbug in Hawaii.)
It’s ironic that something that so screams winter—sitting by the fireplace with a mug of cocoa and a good book anyone?—makes me think of summer instead. Some of my favorite times have been spent sitting around a fire pit with good friends and a couple bottles of wine. Even better are those that take place on the beach, at least I would imagine so, as I’ve never actually done this. Summer nights sitting around a bonfire are straight-up heaven.
I used to have quite the impressive shell collection. Sadly, they’ve scattered over the years—broken, forgotten, and thrown away—and I have but a handful left decorating the quiet corners of my bedroom and bathroom. Still, wandering up and down the waterline looking for treasures is one of my favorite things to do on vacation. I especially love finding sea glass. I’m fascinated by how easily the pounding waves and salt water can turn something sharp and harmful into something so smooth and beautiful. Last summer, we visited Botany Bay Beach in Edisto Island, SC. It was a wildlife sanctuary that looked like a deserted island; a beachcomber’s paradise. You couldn’t take what you found, but you could find a spot for it on the beach or the fallen trees—even the spikes of the palm trees (above)—to display so that others after you could check out what you found. And that’s what people have been doing for years. There were huge shells everywhere, along with a plethora of sand dollars, discarded horseshoe crab shells, chunks of sea sponge, even oddly shaped rocks. It was pretty flippin’, well, pretty.
4. Pina Coladas
It’s the biggest cliché ever, but an icy cold piña colada just says summer to me. Whenever we’re on a cruise, I order one with dinner practically every night. Something about that delicious combination of pineapple and coconut (and those little umbrellas!) just makes me want to sit under a palm tree and smack a steel drum.
5. Steel Drums
Speaking of which … if you visit a Caribbean island, nine times out of 10 the music you’re going to hear is some sort of reggae/calypso. They practically worship Bob Marley in the islands; his face is everywhere—on blankets, towels, T-shirts, shot glasses, guitar picks—heck, I’ve even seen “One Love” onesies! I’ve grown so accustomed to hearing the tunes every summer that just hearing the familiar pings of those drums puts me in a fantastic mood. (They played “Under the Sea” on steel drums on the Disney cruise I was on back in 2000 and I nearly cried, I loved it so much.) I’ve been listening to my Bob Marley station on Pandora for a week already in preparation for my upcoming Caribbean vacation. St. Lucia, here I come!
Not a memory or activity, but one whiff and my whole body is overwhelmed with the sense of SUMMER. I’m talking about … Coppertone suncreen. It’s heaven in a bottle. I close my eyes and inhale and suddenly I’m sitting on the beach in a Disney princess bathing suit, enjoying a salt-encrusted PB&J with my little pink toes in the Jersey sand and the shore wind whipping my hair around my face. When I’m in a bad mood, I’ll dab that stuff on like perfume for just a moment of summer childhood nostalgia. I just love it.