Sand in My Shoes

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Cape May shines after Labor Day. When the beach vacation people fold their umbrellas and take the kids home, that’s a good time to head for the shore. In St. Mark’s Square tourists feed the pigeons. In Cape May tourists feed parking meters that could work until 10 p.m. Bring a bag of quarters or risk a $35 ticket. A line of parked cars, including our rental, were ticketed late one night next to Congress Hall. Parking meter money and  parking tickets bring in half of Cape May’s annual budget of $2 million. Happy to contribute to historic and ever-beautiful Cape May.

Richard and I flew in from Tucson to hang out with two cousins for a few days. We visited an alpaca farm (, the Cape May lighthouse, and the sunken concrete ship. We drove over to Villas to see my Aunt Dot’s old house and to walk on the bay-side beach. Memories of past summer trips came roaring back. Everything seemed perfectly in place — the dead horseshoe crabs, the men fishing, and the beach dotted with hundreds of shiny pebbles.

A Friday highlight – we attended the graduation ceremony at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center. Between college and grad school, Richard completed his training at Cape May and was assigned to Search & Rescue, Governors Island (N.Y.C.) Semper Paratus 1790.


When the trip was almost over, we drove north and stopped in Wildwood. A fireman’s convention packed the town and No Vacancy signs were everywhere. Ocean City was our destination for a final night at the shore. Another boardwalk with arcades, salt water taffy shops, and food stands. I had a yearning for one nostalgic treat, a waffle ice cream sandwich. Just the thought brought me back to teenage summers at Seaside Heights and the flavor of vanilla and the crunch of waffle. Now, I’m in Ocean City and the year is 2016. My eyes opened wide when the vendor asked for six dollars and seventy-five cents for a waffle ice cream sandwich. What??!!  Are you kidding me?  Nope, she wasn’t kidding.


Barnegat Beach

Barnegat Beach


A clacking seagull
Raised his scissor beak to the sky.
His shrill cut the silence of the sea.
You and I stood beneath the blue and saw
A sunny bank across the bay.
The sea lapped a wooden pier,
Green foam circled, then vanished.

Hooks were baited, lines were tossed
Flounder ran and fishermen waited.
Hopes were high as flat
Brown-speckled fish swallowed hooks.
Along the sandy pebbled beach,
Colored stones and shells hid beneath
The crush of booted feet.

You and I stood watching the silent scene,
As if intruding, we stepped into another’s dream.
The scene seemed done in black and white,
A woodcut carved by crafty hands.
Yet we knew the hues were plainly there.
A deceiving trick hung over us.
The sassy gull cried again,
Announcing intruders to the group
Of silent, patient men.
Life’s second-hand paused a moment
To let us pass.

We wandered on another path,
Passed wind-bent bony scrub
Crushing clam shells as we stepped
To reach the point of Barnegat Light.
Its splintered wooden doors shuttered
With metal bolts and bars, held secure
To a lock chained from within.
Did he know we stood waiting?
Only a speck on the horizon’s edge
Would stir the keeper’s curiosity.
A bronze bust faced the lighthouse doors.
A man who loved the sea, his face turned
Inward from wind, light, and distant bar.
He was guardian of the bolted doors.

Fresh winds blew the clouds away.
Shadows deepened in the bright,
As light dissolved to orange, blue, and gray.
You and I laughed and tossed in sandy folds
As the wind watched and waited,
Then quickly hid our scattered prints.
We did not sadden to see our traces taken.
Gusts of wind cannot claim
The gifts of joy from a summer sea.