On days like this there is a meditative quality about the shore. Perhaps it’s the hypnotic effect of the coming and going of the waves or simply the shushing withdrawal of water down the sand. Perhaps it’s the repetitive nature of the game of fetch I play with the dog. I throw the ball out beyond the first rise of the waves, maybe faking it once or twice to fool him. He leaps over the closer in waves and then swims as the shore shelves away. His head turns and the hinge of his jaw opens to enclose the ball, his tail flicks as he changes direction, launching a shower into the sun lit air and he turns for home.
Meanwhile I wait. Observing the curl of the white foam as it trails away with the retreating wave, sketching curious patterns on the smooth sand. Sneaking a glance at my two children who play with a ball further up the beach. Their calls to one another are audible, but I like to watch them surreptitiously. Twirling the chucker between my forefinger and thumb while the dog, on his way back, coughs water from his mouth.
Inevitably he drops the ball, just where the in rush of water runs out of steam and I step forward to receive it, before going through the ritual again. For as long as my arm will hold out.
Then almost unnoticed, the beach has emptied of the dog walkers, the joggers and the hand-in-hand lovers. The sun is dropping down behind the rooftops and church towers of the town. And the children, faces reddened from exertion, make their way over and request a return home. The dog is reluctant, but we leave, trailing conversation behind us about the afternoon, and the ball skills, and the sun, and how the dog refuses to walk a straight line.