No, not the god-awful Bette Midler movie, just the regular sand sort of thing. It is now officially summer, although the weather here is not exactly warm yet. It is teasing at around 70 degrees. June here is such a cruel bastard. You long for the heat of a summer sun, and June still fucks with your head, with rain and 50-degree days, throwing in a high-70s just to toss the clouds back the next day. Eat lead, Pacific Northwest June. Oh. Anyway, summer and the smell of sunscreen make me think of the beach, and I am always happy when thinking about beaches.

The first one I can remember going to was Naga-Waukee Park Beach, and I suppose I must've been 2 or 3 years old. The memories are vague of that day, just impressions now but they are still there. The smell of the Coppertone, and the picture on the brown bottle with the little girl and the dog pulling down her swimsuit bottoms, something I thought was extremely interesting and rather racy. The wonderful warm sun, cooled perfectly by a gentle lake breeze. How hot the sand was on my feet as I ran to the water. My mother in a seersucker swimsuit, I thought she looked so tall and lean and womanly. Kids everywhere, yelling and running. Big canvas totes stuffed with towels and baloney sandwiches and a big bag of chips. My chocolate-brown swimsuit, with a white ruffle. The woodsy-looking Snack Shack, where they sold lemonade, and snow cones, and hot dogs, and swirly vanilla ice cream cones that melted so quickly they ran down your hand and arm. Throwing the pebbles from the beach into the water with a satisfying plop. A yellow lab joyously chasing a branch into the water, over and over and over. Pretty boats with clean white sails quietly drifting across the lake. The feel of the cool water, and my mother telling me I will get used to it soon. The gritty sand on my feet and legs and hands. The idea that this was the best day ever.

Maybe it was. I have been to a few beaches since then, but I can't think of another memory about any other that contains such power, or just sheer happiness. How many times did I want to go back. We never did, even though it was only about a mile from our house.

I have been to beaches all over the country. Cape Cod, where my son decided a dead crab found on the beach there was an awesome thing to pack in his luggage. The stench was mind-boggling. Hawaii, from a windy greasy-tourist packed Waikiki, to a deserted and rocky remote cove. The chill and fog of a San Francisco beach in August, desolate. The absolute wonder of the talc-soft white beaches in Sarasota, the pretty blue-green Gulf, bending over searching for shells. And San Diego, standing on wide Mission Beach, at night, staring into the black and feeling the power and the endlessness of the ocean, and feeling both very small and very connected.

I don't mind if sand gets in my toes. I don't mind if I roll my pants up and they still get soaked by a rogue wave. There is something about being on a beach that I am drawn to, that is soothing and renewing. Here's to you, Naga-Waukee Park Beach. Ya done good in a day.