"Mom, get to the beach house, and stay there. Honor the quarantine, and stay put. You’ll be safe there from the pandemic.”
My daughter sounded earnest, which told me she meant every syllable she said, and, as a teaching psychiatrist, at Perelman Medical College of the University of Pennsylvania, she understands the tragic drama of living life in a hospital during a pandemic, with daily deaths.
My husband, John, and I agreed to move to our delightful marsh-front home, near the Wetlands Institute. We have stayed there March 9, 2020. We are not only safe, but we are delighted to enjoy the rosy glow of daily sunsets over the bay and the treasure called the winter beach.
Because I own a year-round clinical psychology practice that has served Cape May County since 1986, it was a special treat to be here for a longer stay.
Author Charles Ogden has painted a picture of this treasure in his 30-year-old volume, which is still worth reading, but I am now more interested in walking merrily across the beach, with my favorite four-pawed, black wavy-haired daughter, than reading about it.
I opened the back car door for Oakley, the younger of our two Portuguese water dogs. Being obedient and fun-loving, she hopped in and waited to see where she was to go next.
I drove down Stone Harbor Boulevard and crossed the bridge into town. I drove slowly by Hoys and noted that some shops have closed for the winter, but I was not headed to the shops.
I turned right on Third Avenue, driving until I reached a deserted, dog-friendly beach. Oakley and I parked for our 45-minute winter beach walk.
In the back of the car, I could hear her getting ready to jump out as soon as the door opened, and jump she did, gleefully pulling on the leash that keeps her polite in her excitement.
Oakley and I agree that a winter beach is one of the most delightful ways to spend time on earth. Many humans invest their time and paychecks to live near a beach. Of course, summer vacationers flock to sunny beachside locations on holidays, and when retirement hits, many head for the warm, coastal areas.
Why do humans gravitate toward the beach? Clean beaches offer health benefits.
As I see Oakley take off at lightning speed towards the frigid ocean, I know she is as happy as a pup can be. Despite windy gusts, the afternoon's sunshine on the dark, blue-green waves reminds me why we rebuilt a tiny cottage into a home large enough for kids, grandkids and dogs.
Ogden took time from his primary calling, as a Shakespearean writer, when he wrote about his experiences walking the winter beach. Despite being written decades ago, his thoughts are true today.
While exploring beaches in Maine and heading south, he describes beauty in huge water bird flocks and the significance of our natural, year-round wonderland.
Finding pleasure on a cold winter afternoon without going farther than the beach is simple, especially for Oakley, who loves nothing more than a romp of two or three miles. She sprints effortlessly on the sand next to a cold, inviting ocean.
Have you ever stopped to consider a brisk beach walk's health benefits, with or without a dog?
In the next edition of 'Making Life Work,' I'll explore the beach's health benefits at any time of year. In the meantime, I invite you to hit the beach and do yourself a favor.
To Consider: When is the last time you took a brisk walk on a sunny beach on a cold winter day? Do you prefer to go alone or with someone?
To Do: Perhaps you can promise yourself to visit the beach on a sunny winter afternoon? How does it feel? Might you want to do it again?
To Read: Charlton Ogden, Jr. The Winter Beach: Quill Publisher, 1990.
ED. NOTE: Dr. Coche practices clinical psychology at Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, www.cochecenter.com.