This Is the Time of Year To Touch Grass


Someone recently asked: Have you been to the beach lately?

No, I said. Despite living in a peninsular county in the peninsular state of Florida, I don't really go to the beach. The sun hurts my skin, which resembles the cadaverous husk of an 18th-century European farm woman who gathers eggs while wearing four babushkas. Once on the beach, I don't know what to do except be hot (literally, not figuratively) and shift on a too-small towel while squinting at the water and thinking, "Probably giant squids in there."

I only enjoy the beach with equipment. An enormous sun canopy, for starters. Foldable chairs. A cooler of fizzy water and cheesy chips. Three mineral SPFs in 70 or higher. Tumblers and koozies. Oversized hats, glasses and caftans. With all 64 items assembled on the sand, I can relax. Equipment, unfortunately, requires the presence of multiple wagons, which automatically warps leisure into labor -- not what the babushka ladies would have wanted.

So, no. No beach.

If you relate, listen up. For those of us who find the natural world unnatural, prime time is passing us by. This, right now, is the best moment in many parts of the country to touch grass, sand, dirt -- anything other than luxury vinyl plank in a neutral greige. If we are not careful, we will miss it.

Come on! Get up! Let's walk around neighborhood streets with a Stanley full of pinot grigio! Let's examine overpriced tomatoes at a farmers market and leave without buying! Let's tie our dogs beneath cafe tables and get frustrated when they ask for crispy breakfast potatoes every 30 seconds!

This is hard. I know. The couch is just so good. Here's a weather enjoyment template I personally tested:


Ice cream. It has to be vanilla soft serve in a traditional foamy cone; shards of Butterfinger are meant for more complicated months. This cone must from a place with an exposed metal bench in the front, a bench you can only use without fear of skin grafts three weeks per year. My perfect cone came wrapped in paper that said JOY. I stood behind the bigger cone while executing a head-tilt lick like a happy cow, arm hair follicles rising in a warm-cool tango. Bliss! Bliss!



Beach, minus equipment. This flexible weather beckons us non-Beach People to abandon preconceptions. Wear a light sweater. Unless you plan to go sweater-swimming, you don't even need a towel. You just need a fleece blanket that has been in the corner of the trunk for two years, a book and a will to venture to the sand.

My local beach in St. Petersburg was bustling with varying degrees of Equipment People. With the breeze at my back, I allowed myself to cozy up on my blanket, read a few chapters of a novel, gaze into the waters and think, "Wow, beautiful," rather than "Some jellyfish have tentacles that stretch up to 165 feet." Bliss! Bliss!

No need to get carried away, though. One hour was plenty. At one hour, an unsweatered man decided everyone nearby should hear the country stylings of Morgan Wallen on Bluetooth. At one hour, a wiry young boy screamed, "LET'S GO!" I think he meant it in the sporting sense, but I took his instructions literally. On the way out, I made familiar eye contact with a pale, tired, short woman lugging folding chairs behind her athletic-looking family.

Have I been to the beach lately? Yes. For one hour. In a sweater. And like this moment, it was nearly perfect.


Stephanie Hayes is a columnist at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. Follow her at @stephhayes on Twitter or @stephrhayes on Instagram.


Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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