93, 128, 114, 1A...
What do these numbers mean to you? No, they're not a combination to some lock, or a secret-coded message, but they are the order of highways to be traveled to reach my favorite place.
As my parents and I journeyed along Marblehead Neck, we would often stop to peer through the gates of the oceanside mansions, and pretend that we owned one. We followed the road with much anticipation, until we finally arrived at our hideaway - Chandler Hovey Park. It wasn't a city park, but a beautiful rocky shoreline preceded by a picnic area of rolling, green grass. As usual, the tiny parking lot was virtually empty, except for the few visitors who shared our secret.
Getting out of the car, we experienced a familiar illusion. Immediately, we'd see the grand blue ocean as it met the grass's edge, with seemingly no coastal waves or beach at all. All would be quiet, except for the screeching of a lonely seagull flying high over the majestic lighthouse. We proceeded across the grassy area to a steep dirt path, and as we cautiously inched down the chasm, a panorama of my favorite place unfolded before us. Suddenly, we were overwhelmed by the pungent odor of seaweed, stranded on the rocky coast from the last tide to visit here. I'd feel a blast of cold air in my face, always many degrees cooler than the park above. A chill would climb up my spine, but be suddenly driven off as the sun broke through the wispy clouds and dispersed the grey mists from the sea's face.
There was no sand at all, just stones. This probably discouraged many from coming here, but those who did come for the first time had to pass the initiation. They had to withstand the sharp pains inflicted on the soles of their feet, for they had been expecting golden granules of sand, not sharp-edged stones returned by the tide to torture these newcomers. Yet, I knew the rocks well. Since the first time, I wore old sneakers when swimming and walking.
I sat down on the stones and relaxed, taking in the surroundings. I watched the various sailboats and yachts cruise by Marblehead Neck as they left the harbor. There was an occasional gunshot heard, a starter's gun, signifying a race had begun. Soon twenty or more glimmering white sails came speeding around the bend, making their way towards the islands in the distance and the faintly visible coastline of Salem. Closer to shore were the lobster trappers, making their ever-faithful rounds from buoy to buoy, dodging the hazardous rocks jutting up at low tide.
"Vin, why don't you try climbing those cliffs or exploring those inlets?" my parents suggested.
I could tell they were trying to get rid of me, for ultimate solace could only be attained when there wasn't a kid around.
So I set off like Ulysses on my land and sea adventures. First I climbed the great cliffs which separated all the little crevices and ocean inlets. Hand over hand, foot by foot, I scaled the mighty rocks. At the top I was rewarded with an incredible view of Marblehead Harbor and all the boats gently bobbing up and down. I ran down a hill until I came to a sheer rock face which plummeted downwards like the Grand Canyon (actually, only fifteen feet). Down I went, reaching the damp bottom which consisted of many tiny pools, along with several small boulders. I searched the area thoroughly, finding tiny pieces of glass which had been rounded by the waters over the years. There were starfish, crabs, and many other creatures lying about.
I was the master. Therefore, when one of my subjects got out of hand, such as the six-inch crab that had found its way through the rocks to nip at my toe, I had to enforce upon it "due punishment." I cast it into the air, until a little "plop" was heard as it cut into the sea, creating a tiny ripple which radiated from its point of entry. A wave overcame this scene, and the whitecaps continued toward my inlet. Water gurgled over the mussels and debris which had been exposed by the ebbing waters. Again like Ulysses, I realized I would soon be trapped by the incoming tide. Behind me was the cave of Scylla, dark, foreboding - inescapable. Before me was the whirlpool of Charybdis - churning hungrily. My only chance was to swim for it! I plunged into the frigid water and made for the shore next to me past these cliffs. The salty-tasting water aided my journey, with its almost supernatural buoyancy. I made it safely to our spot, and warmed up.
I loved this place so much, that even after a thousand visits, I would never get tired of it. It was a relief from all my weekly pressures. The sea neutralized all my anxieties, and as we left I thought to myself, "I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky." ("Sea Fever" by John Masefield.)n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.