When I close my eyes

January 2, 2008
When I close my eyes I am able to feel the sand between my toes and the water washing over my feet. When I close my eyes I can feel the hot sun in the middle of the day and I can feel the breeze that keeps me from overheating on my beach towel. I can see myself skim boarding across the many miles of beach and I can see the colored umbrellas scattered up and down the coastline. I hear the music playing and the kids playing in the sand. I know immediately where I am as if it were my first home. I know I am in South Carolina, Kiawah Island to be specific. It is an island off the coast of South Carolina no more than ten miles long. Kiawah is a place where I have known for many years, in different times and in different stages of my life. Despite the different circumstances each time I was visiting, I always know Kiawah when I see it; it is not a sight to misunderstand.

Ever since I was about eight years old my family has been vacationing in Kiawah and it by far my most favorite spot to relax on the beach. The first summer we went I was so amazed at the sight of it all. One little island, totally self sufficient, relying on nothing but what had been created around the island and with no regrets. The beach that goes on for miles and miles is a sight that can take one’s breath away and it did mine. There are few things so natural that are appreciated and the sunsets on Kiawah Island were those like no other. The way the colors were arranged, the way the dimming light complimented the palm trees and boardwalks, it was like no other. The beauty of nature was to be recognized at every point of every day. The way the alligators patrolled the golf courses was such a way that they were intimidating yet inviting. They were inviting me to their home yet warning me not to interfere with their way of life. The sand beneath my feet is one of the most warming characteristics of Kiawah Island. The way the sand attracts all sorts of people, animals and life is truly incredible. The way that the ocean hits the sand is one of the most unique occurrences. The sandbars that appear during tide changes represent the growth and change that happens daily on the island. Kiawah Island is the place to be.

Since the first time I went to Kiawah, my habits have always been the same. We arrive on a Saturday, usually in time to unload the car and take a walk on the beach to watch the sunset. Our first stop before we even enter the island is always Piggly Wiggly, the most known grocery store in the area. The car gets loaded up with food that we will need for the week, and we hope that it will last. The drive from the grocery store to the island is such a pretty sight, yet I am always anxious to get to the beach. The drive seems to last forever because the road goes straight for miles and miles. There are no real landmarks to tell how far you have gone until you get to the sign that says “Welcome To Kiawah Island”. It is at that point when I breathe easy, when I have a new feeling or meaning of what it is to relax.

As we unload the car, I clearly remember the many walks on the beach, bike rides on the paths past the alligator ponds, and the trips to the famous Straw Market every night for ice cream. We get our bikes out from under the house; they are up on stilts because flooding is a fairly common event. Most of the time we will go for a nice dinner at a local steak house as our first meal in South Carolina. After we return from dinner the next stop is the beach for the sunset. It is the most amazing event at night and there is no better place to view it than from on the beach. The water is chilly at night and most will advise you not to swim due to the sharks feeding after sunset so we save the swimming for the following day. First thing Sunday morning is a quick breakfast, usually muffins or something I am able to eat while I ride my bike to the beach. My bag is packed with plenty of water, suntan lotion and a towel with my skim board under my arm; I am ready to hit the beach. I spend the morning skimboarding up and down the miles of beach as my skin darkens from the hot sun. I take no breaks, not even for lunch so by the time dinner rolls around I am starving. Normally I will stop for water and some cookies or more muffins; not much can keep me from the water. Around 2 o’clock I start to relax on a towel, maybe read a book and listen to music or take a nap. It is the perfect way to start winding down. Just before dinner I head back to the house for a shower and to get ready to go out for dinner. We always try to go to Joe’s Crab Shack, it’s one of our traditions that we keep alive. Once we’re back on the island, I ride my bike down to the Straw Market, the local market full of shops and the best ice cream. I will get ice cream for mom, dad and myself and go back to the house to watch a movie or read. It is the perfect day, like always.

As the years have gone by, I feel as though I have not gotten any older because the island is just as it was from the first visit to the most recent. I have trouble picturing myself taking my own children to Kiawah because I will not know which role to play, the child or the parent. There is no doubt that Kiawah will always be one of my favorite places for vacationing. I hope that my children will gain as much as I have. I hope they will gain the experience, the beauty, and the ability to relax and recognize nature for what it is. Kiawah Island will always be viewed in my eyes the same, no matter how much I age, no matter how much the island itself changes. Kiawah Island is a tradition and I will do my best to keep it alive for as long as I am with the sun that sets on the beach.

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