California Forum

For Californians from all over, a walk on a beach in a gem of a state

The author’s son romps at dusk with a boogie board on Coronado Beach in San Diego County.
The author’s son romps at dusk with a boogie board on Coronado Beach in San Diego County.

As my son Jukie and I walked south along San Diego County’s Coronado Beach at sunset one recent evening, we could see Tijuana, Mexico, on the horizon, and our state’s international flavor in the people around us on the shore.

First we passed a family of Frenchmen – a dad and three sons – who had made soccer goal markers from the abundant seaweed. One of the sons had overshot the goal, sending the ball 10 meters into the Pacific, which promptly returned it.

I could almost decipher some of their French exclamations. Perhaps 10 years older than me and with a look of concentration, the father could still outmaneuver his sons, perhaps having honed his skills when each new son came of age, preparing for such beach vacations in America.

Far from my home town of Davis, I still felt compelled to communicate that we Californians love and welcome strangers on south-state beaches. The most diverse state in the union depends upon a great mix of thinkers, inventors, and workers to power our communities.

Soon we encountered three middle-aged Latinos – a man and two women – digging ever deeper in the sand with hotel juice pitchers. Before long, the man got out his metal detector again, and accepted the advice of the women as to where to place and how to angle the cumbersome machine.

“We will just have to dig deeper,” one said. I expected that eventually they would find a metal bolt or an ancient gum wrapper, rather than a diamond ring.

Farther along the beach a Middle Eastern couple in their 50s strolled with their daughter in her 20s. Thinking about racial tensions in Charlottesville, Va., I offered a friendly greeting, and they returned it. I didn’t know if they were locals, or if they might have been visiting from 8,000 miles away.

Far from my hometown of Davis, I still felt compelled to communicate that we Californians love and welcome strangers on south-state beaches. The most diverse state in the union depends upon a great mix of thinkers, inventors and workers to power our communities, and to keep the ongoing dialogue lively.

The Middle Eastern family had paused to take pictures, and I could see why: We had reached that “magic time” for photographers when the sun’s light is diffused by the rising marine layer.

Dusk along the beach makes the world beautiful, especially on film. At that hour, Jukie and I spotted an engagement photographer, a family photographer, and many amateurs who were taking advantage of the fading light.

If it had not been getting darker, we might have walked for a few more miles along the wide beach until we heard the actual sounds of Tijuana nightclubs. Having received a text from my wife Kate – I’m freezing, she said – we started back, the setting sun filling our faces with light.

By the time we returned to Kate, the photographers were packing up their equipment and nodding optimistically to their clients, the French dad was walking arm and arm with his sons toward the Hotel del Coronado, and the juice-pitcher excavators were climbing out of their hole to exchange a high-five.

Perhaps, like Kate with her pictures of our son Truman jumping over waves, and like Jukie and me on our walk, these three prospectors had finally found their summer vacation diamond.

Andy Jones teaches for the University Writing Program at UC Davis. He can be reached at aojones@ucdavis.edu.

  Comments