It has been pretty cold and wet lately so when the sun came out on Saturday we put the chores on hold at our house and headed out to enjoy the day. It was a much needed break from being cooped up indoors; the warm winter sun raised my spirits and let me shake off the nagging brittle tension that comes with the cold weather. It was unseasonably warm for January, hitting the low 60’s, and the bright clear sky lured us west where our native Californian instincts naturally took us to the beach.

The drive from Tomales to Dillon Beach treated us to sweeping views of a glistening Tomales Bay. Wisps of mist danced around the edges of the water and green hills rolled down the coast until they suddenly gave way to rocky cliffs and sand. Maybe it was the intensity of the winter sun sitting high in the sky that made the landscape looks so vibrant; or maybe it was just my weary eyes awakening to the unexpected contrast of colors. In any case, the beautiful view evoked a sigh of contentment from our car.

       

We were not alone in our quest for the coast but the parking lot at Dillon Beach was far from full. We pulled up to the sand, took off our shoes, and walked towards the water. The tide was low and the beach seemed to go on forever. Our three year old hit the sand with the enthusiasm of someone who was seeing it for the first time. He set off running towards an abandoned sand castle in the distance. Looking around I saw people enjoying the beach; a few brave souls splashed around the in the frigid surf, several people played ball with their dogs, kids were building sand castles, and some just sat and soaked up the sun.

Walking down the beach we combed for shells and explored a straggling stretch of puddles connected by trickles of water. It was like a miniature river running down from the sandy tide pool area at the north end of the beach. Half-naked kids were jumping and splashing in the waterholes, enjoying the almost tepid sun-warmed water. I gave up on keeping my kid clean and let him run pant-less through the water maze.

Scattered rocks and boulders protruded from many of the puddles, providing hiding places for shy, and not-so-shy, sea creatures. Limpets and mussels created an impenetrable crust over the surface of the rocks. Large purple starfish clung steadfast, waiting in earnest for the ocean to engulf them again. Sea anemones squirted water from bunker-like crevices. A feisty female crab was taunted out of her hiding place by my husband digging in the sand. A tug-o-war ensued over one of our sea shells. She snapped vigorously and grabbed the shell with determination. Fearing for the wellbeing of his fingers my husband let her win. She victoriously tucked the shell underneath her and nestled back into the sand.

It took some creativity to lure our son off of the beach that afternoon. He splashed his way back through the network of waterholes but looked doubtful when we encouraged him to continue towards the car. My husband began drawing train tracks in the sand to coax him along. He chugged his way along the tracks until we reached the final hill over to the parking lot. At that point the jig was up. He knew we were heading home. As we descended to the car he screamed in protest from over my husband’s shoulder. I couldn’t blame him. It had been a great day. Warm weather, beautiful scenery, the feeling of sand between you toes, water splashing on your legs, and the relaxing distraction of idle exploration; it had been the perfect cure for the winter doldrums.

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