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Beaching It

by Amanda Forester

What do you associate with the word “beach”? Smooth white sand? Palm trees? How about barnacles?! My family loves going to the beach, but for us in the Pacific Northwest it’s not exactly tropical. One of our favorite things to do is explore the tide pools at low tide.

With nothing more than a pail and shovel my kids can be amused for hours. That’s free entertainment! Exploring the rocky shore line can lead to many exciting discoveries: shells, starfish, snails, sea anemones, sand dollars, crabs, jellyfish, seaweed, limpets, and eels. My son is fearless, picking up huge crabs and catching slickery eels. We also learn a lot by observing how these creatures live. Did you know sand dollars are actually purple and live sticking up in the sand?

We have even found an octopus. For my son who is a great lover of cephalopods this was a huge treat, second only to attending a squid dissection at the zoo. Do you see the red octopus in this picture? If red is an indication of his emotional state, the octopus was showing that he was really irritated we found him under a rock. Octopuses can actually change color to blend in to their surroundings and even become multiple colors. Clever creatures. Random question – can you name all four types of cephalopods? My son surprised a zookeeper by knowing the answer. He also knew how many hearts a squid has (three) and how an octopus moves (jet propulsion). I sense marine biology might be in his future.

One thing I particularly enjoy about going to the beach is taking my little mini laptop. Writing can be a very solitary and indoor activity. My mini notebook has opened up some doors for me (literally) and I have been able to get out to write in the sunshine and fresh air. I find this has revitalized my writing. Especially since I write about the medieval period, it is helpful for me to connect with a mindset of people who spent a good deal of time outside. Sitting on the beach connects me to the sensations of nature- the warmth of the sun on my arms, the smell of the ocean, the cool breeze playing with my hair. Much better than sitting in my plain old office.

Writing outside also allows me to be with my family and still get some work done. A few weeks ago we went to the beach and I sat in a folding chair on the sand and my kids happily explored the low tide (with my husband of course, so they didn’t get carried off by a hungry seagull when I wasn’t watching). I enjoyed writing outside on a beautiful day and still got to interact with my kids when they ran up to show me a newly found treasure. It’s hard to do it all, but writing on the beach is as close to perfect as I get.

What are your favorite places to go where you feel connected, but still can get some work done?


  1. HI Amanda,

    You can read your screen outdoors? I just got a brand new netbook, and I haven't bothered to try it out on the deck figuring that if I couldn't use my iPod or old laptop out there, I wouldn't be able to see my netbook either.

    I'll have to try it! Being cooped up all summer isn't my idea of fun.
    I'm a total summer girl.

    (Oh, and you pictures of the beach remind me so much of the tidal pools I used to explore as a kid.


  2. What do I associated with the beach? Sunburn. It what happens when your freckle at the hint of sun! So I'm an in-door girl who loves her air-conditioning and a good book, or two, or three....I only go out when I have no choice. Now as a kid, you couldn't keep me in doors, now that I'm ancient, well, nuff

  3. Oh yes, anywhere near water is so calming and relaxing. In fact, this weekend, I have a little getaway to the coast planned!

  4. Wireless internet and smart phones have made it so much easier to get outside and still be connected to technology!

    Loved the photos! I always thought I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was younger... what was I thinking stuck in landlocked Illinois? :)

  5. I love the beach, in fact just got back from a vacation there. My best memories are visiting my grandmother and our walks along the harbor. I was able to visit the same spot this weekend and relax on the bench they have overlooking the crashing waves on the rocky shoreline. Could sit there forever and let all my worries just disappear.

  6. I miss the beach. Okay, I miss water, period. Living in the desert means I stay indoors with the ac all summer. But it also means I can get a lot of writing done. :} Great post as usual, Amanda!

  7. Oh I love the coast. We used to go when we lived in Boise, Lincoln City, Newport, Yachats... I'm so homesick.

  8. Great pictures, Amanda!
    I don't do much writing outdoors. I tried it on the deck under an umbrella a few times, but the bugs bugged me and I couldn't see the screen very well. I can think about what I'm going to write while I'm weeding or mowing, but that's about it!

  9. This was amazing, Amanda! I loved the word pictures and real pictures you gave us to enjoy. You'll never regret spending that time with your children and they will never forget it. Thanks for sharing this wonderful time you have with your family and yet, work, too! the best of both worlds to be sure!

  10. Ashlyn and Cheryl - I can't really see my screen either, particularly in the sun. So most of the time I'm typing pretty much blind. I do also wear a wide brimmed hat so when I want to actually see the screen I lean forward to put the screen in shade so I can see it. Not the best way to go, but fun to get outside and out of my writing cave!

  11. Jessica - sunburn - ouch! Last weekend I managed to sunburn my knees. Just my knees. Yeah, I have no idea how I could possibly do that either.

    Shana - have FUN on your getaway!!

    Danielle - perhaps the great lakes are more your marine biology style.

    Melanie - I found myself relaxing just reading your post. Sounds delightful!

  12. Kathryne - I'd miss the water too. Though I REALLY need to get writing, so you are no doubt ahead of me on that score!

    Robin - sending you warm thoughts of sea breezes and the rythmic sound of the waves. I used to live near a highway and I would pretend it was actually the distance sound of the ocean. It worked... kinda.

    Amelia - thanks! I enjoy our exciting finds on the beach!

  13. Missed commenting before work this morning...running late...we used to go to a beach we called Moon Rock in California for all the pitted boulders worn down by the waves. It was one of our favorite places to visit and folks fished squid out of the ocean.

  14. ah, a subject near and dear to my (Mer) heart. :) But I've never found an octopus at the Jersey shore! Your kids must have a blast. We called one of mine Mini-Jacque b/c he'd walk along the beach with his pail and the next thing we knew, he'd have a dozen kids following him and he'd be giving them a marine biology lesson. And he was, like, six years old. LOL.

  15. I have been blessed to live my entire life within a reasonable driving distance to the California beaches. We lived in Santa Cruz for years. Of course, as happens sometimes, when you live with the beach and ocean literally visible from nearly every street, you hardly glance at it! Still, we did a fair amount of playing in the sand. Like you said, Amanda, the water is a bit too cold unless donning a wet suit!

    My favorite part is watching the waves and hearing the surf. Preferably from inside a restaurant or from a bench away from the sand! LOL! Not fond of the sand!

  16. Terry - ooo squid - my son would love that!

    Judi - I think your son and mine would have a fabulous time at the beach!

    Sharon - sounds wonderful to be that close to actual sandy beaches. We have a lot of barnacles and seaweed up here. I can handle sand - it's the jellyfish I'd rather not step on!


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