At dawn, the South Carolinian sea retreats
to the horizon for miles, like it’s baring its
secrets to the world. Scientists have quantified the phenomenon with charts and maps of
the moon’s position, but to me, low tide will
always be magic.
When we visited on vacation, my parents
would wake me up in the early hours of the
morning to walk along the wet grains of sand
and pick out seashells. My sister and I would
compete to find an unbroken sand dollar,
screaming in delight when we caught sight of
their perfectly round shape.
Often my father would carry me, enveloping me in his arms because I was still listless
from sleep. Perhaps that’s why the low tide is
so enchanting in my memories; my drowsiness
granted the beach an ethereal, dreamlike edge.
We stayed for hours sometimes, and my
father joked about making my sister’s elaborate sand castles their home. My mother
would remind him of the fleeting nature of
the long stretches of sand. The incoming high
tide always caught us by surprise, though.
My mother would look into the distance and
shout a wordless warning, and my father
would swing me into his arms again, even if I
were fully awake, so we could beat the incom-
ing tide. I remember abandoning a plastic
shovel by mistake once and begging the sea to
give it back. I found the toy a few hours later
where the white foam of the waves crashed
into the sand.
I have bags and bags of sand dollars and
seashells now. But my family never visits
South Carolina anymore, both because my
parents are divorced, and because our summers are too full to take those long vacations.
My father lives in Miami, so I still visit the
beach sometimes, but the water isn’t the same
sea I once knew. The ocean in Florida is completely placid, like pool water, and foreign in
color. The ocean is secretive there; it holds its
water close even at low tide.
Were I to return to the Carolinas, I do
not think the sea would speak to me in the
same way. My contentment didn’t come from
just the beach; it grew from inside me. Some
innate happiness was spoiled in the act of
growing up, marred by my age. When I was
young, everything had this air of mystery
about it, like the whole world ran on magic.
Everything was a novelty. The low tide of
South Carolina was not science. It was magic.
I do not remember when the shift happened, when the subtle undertow of my
thoughts became jaded, but I do not think I
can undo it. n
By Logan Dreher
About the Author
WINNER Young Adult Essay Contest