Take Me to the Water
Contrary to what many would assume, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a beach is not a man. Hard to believe, I know. I am known for identifying and gazing at the beauty of men even from great distances. I like to think of it as a gift. Almost like a superpower. But not as powerful as the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen at the beach.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was at the top of the list of places around the world that I just knew I had to see and experience for myself. I dreamed of going there for almost a decade. Time after time my plans of going were botched for one reason or another. Finally, one September afternoon I buckled my seatbelt and took off. My dream was becoming a reality.
Once I stepped foot on Ipanema Beach, I knew exactly why it was so special and adored by people around the globe. Each day with a chair, umbrella, beach bag, and book I’d make my short trek from the hotel to the beach. I’d sit there all day soaking in the sun and the energy. One afternoon I put my book down and observed that a family had made a place for themselves a few yards from where I was sitting. It was a mother, father, a daughter, and a son. They looked to be enjoying each other’s company. Talking, laughing, smiling, creating a picture-perfect moment to etch in their memories for years to come.
Later the father made his way to the water and took a swim. The daughter soon followed, and they played in the water together. They both returned to their place on the beach and dried off. They sat down and continued chatting with the rest of the family. Some time passed and that’s when I saw it. The daughter stood up and placed herself in front of her brother. She lifted him from his wheelchair and positioned his body so that it would be easier for her to carry him. He beamed and my eyes got bigger.
She nodded at her mom and dad, turned her back to them, and started walking toward the ocean. This young girl, probably no more than 15 or 16 years old, was carrying her brother to the water because he couldn’t walk there on his own. They arrived at the place where the water meets the sand, and she smoothly adjusted their stance so that she could allow his feet and ankles to be in the water. I could hear his laughter and squeals of excitement. I am pretty sure that I felt them too.
In the days prior I had seen gorgeous men and stunning sunsets but none of that compared to what my eyes were watching. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen at that beach or any other. It was the superpower of love and connection. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and I almost shed a tear. I’ve noticed since then that I’m even more mindful of how I cherish my time at the beach with friends.
Be it Ipanema, Rehoboth, or the Inkwell, when I arrive to the beach, I am cognizant that there by or in the water, is an opportunity to deepen connection. When we go there alone or with others, it can serve as portal connecting us to whatever our spirit needs most. Love and joy. Peace and comfort. Healing and atonement. I’ve gone to the beach to grieve and cry. I’ve made my way there to celebrate and play. I’ve gone searching there for myself and God. And I have found both.
I am grateful for the mental and spiritual benefits of the outdoors and privileged to have access to sit with myself and with others near bodies of water, or sometimes go out on the water with them for times of reflection and connection. As temperatures begin to warm up and summer approaches, I invite you to head to a beach and do something or share in something beautiful with others too. ▼
Clarence J. Fluker is a public affairs and social impact strategist. Since 2008, he’s also been a contributing writer for Swerv, a lifestyle periodical celebrating African American LGBTQ+ culture and community. Follow him on Twitter: @CJFluker or Instagram: @Mr_CJFluker