Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Delightfully Eccentric

Give me a self-proclaimed beach hater and I will return you an enthusiastic beach appreciator. It's a gift I have.

Granted, part of it is that I operate from a practically perfect beach headquarters, making my indoctrination all the easier. When I invite someone to come live at the ocean for a few days, I'm alerting them to the proximity of the ocean  (beach replenishment begins in Kitty Hawk July 1) which is both impressive and, as they soon learn, all encompassing.

I find the best way to welcome the beach-shy type is with Miraval Rose on the deck where the railing provides a convenient height for resting a motorist's weary legs and the ocean begins its seductive tease. That we also had the most delicious breeze - irresistible to those certain they can't live without air conditioning - only added to the certainty of the outcome.

Having a screened-in porch wrapping two sides of the cottage doesn't hurt the cause, either. The two big chairs made comfortable with throws and cushions provide ocean and sky views that spark cloud games and philosophical discussion set to the sound of crashing surf.

Showing a newbie around the "neighborhood" means a nice long walk along the beach after breakfast each morning, a gambit that acclimates them to the low-key appeal of this shabby and funky stretch of beach where McMansions need not apply.

Doing the heavy lifting for me, a guest's first outdoor shower here is a game-changer. No one who has ever lathered up to the sound of surf with the sky above and dune grasses visible through the slats in the floor can emerge anything but clean and happily mellow.

When I do invite a non-beach lover, I always make sure they're a reader. Besides the myriad obvious delights of beach life, this place is a slice of heaven for those who like to read, whether on the beach under an umbrella or on the porch with our feet up. We both bring back-up reading besides our stacks of books - me, the Washington Post, my guest, the New Yorker - so that we can trade off periodicals and make suggestions what the other should read.

The seduction onslaught is pretty much non-stop.

Naturally, when we do get in the car, it's to go somewhere that continues the charm offensive, whether a vintage seafood stand for locally-caught dolphin and tuna sandwiches that we then eat on the porch picnic table overlooking the ocean or to a porch overlooking a canal for more local seafood, this time shrimp and mahi mahi.

Beach beginners have no clue about the wonders of star-gazing in a place so far from city lights, so I make sure to include deck time at night when the whitecaps become the only part of the ocean visible, their irregular rhythms as mesmerizing as the flames of a fire. On the horizon, we see enormous, well-lighted boats and speculate on their purpose.

In general, I let things unfold organically. There are no schedules at the beach so my guest can set the pace and the priorities. If we want to open up a bottle of Nero d'Avola for lunch, why not? Get up at 4 a.m. to take in the moon's reflection because there was still too much cloud cover at 1 to even see the moon? Sure thing. Spend hours in the porch swing staring at the ocean while sharing personal histories? Let me get another cushion.

By Day 3, my non-believer has been rendered defenseless and unasked is already unashamedly admitting the error of years of anti-beach attitude.

A lethal combination of absolutely perfect weather ("How did you ensure that?" my guest marvels before resignedly attributing it to my "magic skills"), a breeze with as much kick as a roller coaster drop and the non-stop aural appeal of being practically on top of the ocean has made my guest a believer.

My hostessing skills are lauded, but I know perfectly well that anyone can fry bacon and eggs and make coffee and my true talent is putting the right kind of person into this setting and letting nature take its course.

All I really have to do to make a beach lover is share a few of my favorite things, be open to any conversation and smile.

I am so good at those things.

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