We hit town late afternoon-ish and I immediately honor the request for the museum and its entertaining dinosaur footprints indented in cement, pgymy mammoth bones, taxidermied (the fraying sort) mountain animals and vultures, buttons igniting barn owl shrieks and snake rattles and of course there is the excavating pit filled with sand and paint brushes and impossible-to-completely-uncover plastic bones and although he nixes the planetarium show, I admit the gift shop is fun with its bottled goo and Jupiter Juice, dinosaur eggs and display of alarmingly priced, richly colored pashminas I almost can’t resist. When it is time to leave, I try again: The beach? No, he quips, blowing into his straw so intensely the carton of organic milk sounds like a mini-cauldron in full boil. It isn’t until we’re half way to the beach that the solution hits me: Tide pools? Silence. Then, Yes, yes, yes! Hermit crabs! And he carries on from there, so that when I pull into the beach’s lot, he is antsy to escape the car. I roll up our jeans and ferry him, like the little lord he is, across the parking lot to the rocky path and down we go, hand in hand, into five o’ clock sun dazzling our eyes as it jazzes up the water, the surf mild, the tide out, exposing rocks adorned in colonies of button-sized sea anemones and tide pools teeming with hermits and, to his joy, the bare feet of fellow children. He joins a pack of exploring kids as I perch on a rock, controlling urges to shout at him to be careful, biting my knuckles when he slips into a pool and soaks his jeans and most of his shirt. When he picks himself up and laughs at the gold sky, I take a breath. And another. Mental notes for my ocean-infested novel(s) come so fast I scold myself for not showing up with a pen and notebook in my pockets. As he cavorts, splashing and screaming with the others, I steal glances at the ocean’s mingling ribbons of plum, sapphire, teal and, eventually, out there, beyond that island’s rolling spine, shocking fire-pinks. I feel so grateful when I’m by the sea. Slapped awake in a dream. Pushed into reverie that is not so vague, not so misty. It’s why I keep coming back. Well, and because I revel in his (fickle) love for it. When he commands me to look as he jumps from the same rock he first slipped from, back into the same deep pool, I do, with applause. The first beach visit of 2012 reddens our cheeks and, by the time we head for the minivan—soaked, sand-caked—we are ravenous. I knew you’d like it, I think, but don’t say because I told you so bothers me, even though I told you so is not what I mean. After buckling him into his seat, I pull a shell from my pocket, its ridges striped white and black. He takes it from me with a tiny gasp, turns it over in fingers no doubt younger than the shell. Usually I throw the good ones back, give them a second chance for obscurity (preservation?)—but (unlike the dashing pashminas at the museum) I couldn’t resist it, secreting it in my pocket, waiting for this moment, the sort only poems accurately describe—and inevitably embellish.