Winner, 2014 Bethesda Magazine Young Adult Essay Contest
At dawn, the South Carolinian sea retreats to the horizon for miles, like it’s baring its secrets to the world. Scientists have quantified the phenomenon with charts and maps of the moon’s position, but to me, low tide will always be magic.
When we visited on vacation, my parents would wake me up in the early hours of the morning to walk along the wet grains of sand and pick out seashells. My sister and I would compete to find an unbroken sand dollar, screaming in delight when we caught sight of their perfectly round shape.
Often my father would carry me, enveloping me in his arms because I was still listless from sleep. Perhaps that’s why the low tide is so enchanting in my memories? my drowsiness granted the beach an ethereal, dreamlike edge.
We stayed for hours sometimes, and my father joked about making my sister’s elaborate sand castles their home. My mother would remind him of the fleeting nature of the long stretches of sand. The incoming high tide always caught us by surprise, though. My mother would look into the distance and shout a wordless warning, and my father would swing me into his arms again, even if I were fully awake, so we could beat the incoming tide. I remember abandoning a plastic shovel by mistake once and begging the sea to give it back. I found the toy a few hours later where the white foam of the waves crashed into the sand.
I have bags and bags of sand dollars and seashells now. But my family never visits South Carolina anymore, both because my parents are divorced, and because our summers are too full to take those long vacations.
My father lives in Miami, so I still visit the beach sometimes, but the water isn’t the same sea I once knew. The ocean in Florida is completely placid, like pool water, and foreign in color. The ocean is secretive there? it holds its water close even at low tide.
Were I to return to the Carolinas, I do not think the sea would speak to me in the same way. My contentment didn’t come from just the beach? it grew from inside me. Some innate happiness was spoiled in the act of growing up, marred by my age. When I was young, everything had this air of mystery about it, like the whole world ran on magic. Everything was a novelty. The low tide of South Carolina was not science. It was magic.
I do not remember when the shift happened, when the subtle undertow of my thoughts became jaded, but I do not think I can undo it.
About the Author: Logan Dreher is a rising senior at James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring. A member of the National Honor Society, she puts her passion for reading and writing to work as an editor of the award-winning Blake Beat school newspaper and of the school’s creative writing magazine. Logan was one of 37 Washington, D.C., high school juniors to receive the Award for Excellence in the Arts by the National Society of Arts and Letters. An avid writer in her spare time, the Silver Spring resident draws inspiration for her short stories from her family and from her vast collection of books.