The Japanese call it “ma,” the silence between notes that lends musical phrases more meaning. We can hear these same silences on the seashore.
Most of the time the wind blows on the coast, flowing from where the air is cold to where it is warm. But there are instances in which sea and land have the same temperature, so the wind can rest. In these perfect moments, everything is in balance and at peace.
Many visitors arrive in Portugal with their body clocks disoriented by jet lag. They lie awake in the early hours of the morning, stranded between dream and reality.
If you’re close to the ocean, this is your chance. Go to the beach and walk on the immaculate sand. Watch the sea put aside its black nightgown and try on different shades of blue. These simple moments can be extraordinary. Here’s how the writer Raul Brandão describes them in his 1923 book, The Fishermen:
“There are mornings when the dust of the sea mixes with the blue dust of the sky. A fresh, moist breeze, vibrant and salty comes from afar, from the deep, from an endless groundswell that makes us feel that life has no limits.”
Peniche, a sleepy fishing village, used to be an island. But the waves worked tirelessly, carrying mountains of sand to connect Peniche to land. The sand banks they built created beaches that are perfect for surfing: Supertubos, Molho Leste, and Baleal.
Every October, the waves enjoy the fruits of their labor, watching the best surfers in the world compete at the Peniche Rip Curl Pro event. You don’t have to cart any sand to be part of this grand surf celebration. All you have to do is drive to Supertubos on the third week of October.
All the seas work hard to please Neptune. They take large rocks and polish them for years, decades, sometimes centuries, to make shiny round pebbles of different colors and shapes. The seas deposit these treasures on the beach sand as a gift from Neptune to those who venerate the majesty of the oceans. When beach goers ignore these offerings, Neptune goes into a rage and the seas shake with furious storms.
When we are at the beach we always collect sea pebbles. Later, in the dark days of Winter, we touch them to remember the Summer warmth and to appease Neptune.
When we walk on the beach on foggy days we always have a sense that something special is about to happen. In the XVI century Portugal had a young king, D. Sebastião, who tried to conquer the north of Africa. He failed with terrible consequences. Much of the country’s elite died in battle or in Moroccan prisons. The king vanished and Portugal lost its independence to Spain. But the Portuguese did not loose hope. They believed that D. Sebastião would return on a foggy day to restore the glory of Portugal. So, if you are walking on the beach on a foggy day, keep an eye on the horizon. This could be the day.
During beach vacations life follows the rhythm of the tides. Low tide is the best time to walk on the hard, moist sea sand. The sun and the moon regulate the tides with designs that only physicists understand. Luckily, Portugal’s Ocean Institute publishes tide tables, so we don’t have to study physics to know the perfect time to walk on the beach.