New Jersey Sunrise

New Jersey Sunrise turning the sky a turbulent red/ Loscotoff 2022

It was the morning after July 4th and I awoke at 5 am. No need for an alarm clock, I was just determined to see the New Jersey sunrise, and my mind was the only alarm clock I needed.

My mind has a unique inner clock. If I need to be awake at 8, I wake at 7:45. I know this process is in part why I don’t sleep well if I have a morning obligation. It’s like elevator music running in the background; always there. Sometimes I can ignore it and sometimes it rings through my head filling every grey wrinkle.

This wasn’t an obligation, just something I wanted to do before we returned to California–to be one of the first people in the whole United States to watch the sunrise on that day.

I snuck out through our back balcony and down the stairs. I made my way past the few houses separating us from the beach. The sky was dark and cloudy and there was a mild glow in what seemed like the north.

I had believed, up until this point, that the beach lined itself fully north and south.

And then the sky began to turn.

The light was not directly to the east as I had expected, or slightly to the north (the way it is watching the sun rise or set at home California). No, the sky began to turn, in my perspective, it was lighting the sky far to the north of the spit of sand. I began to realize that the island actually moves from NE to SW.

The island lies at a slant, from the SW to the NE.

I have chosen the perfect morning.

Some mornings were bright and clear and the sun rose dramatically, appearing past the horizon. Other mornings were dark and rainy, with no sunrise to speak of. This morning had the glory of the clouds and an incoming storm.

Red sky at night, sailor delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.
Photograph of New Jersey sunrise, the sky is dark but there is a bright red forming/ Loscotoff 2022

As quickly as the red filled the sky, a sailor’s warning at sea, it dissipated and I could see the sun attempting to peek through. The sky beyond the clouds began to light but the sun was hidden.

The tide is out on the Jersey Shore, close up of shells with sky behind/ Loscotoff 2022
Low tide with a shadow of the sunrise in the distance.

I began to walk the beach, the tide far lower than any I had seen thus far. Bits of shell formed a line far from the water.

In the distance, I heard the sound of an engine as what looked like a truck made its way down the sand. The seagulls dived around it, celebrating what the surf rake turned up. I had never seen a surf rake and was intrigued by the smooth road of sand it created.

Photo of Sand combing early morning on the Jersey Shore/ Loscotoff 2022
A Surf Rake, picking up trash after the 4th of July.

The beaches of this part of New Jersey are stunning. The sand is heavy and coarse and can be hard to walk through as it sucks at your feet. The water shifts between warm and cold depending on the current. It is a wild coastline beloved and ever-changing.

Following an early morning sunrise, a perfect treat is one of the neatest little restaurants with fresh juice and more acai bowls than you can imagine. Not only do they offer acai, they have 4 other bases you can try; young coconut, pitaya, banana, and strawberry.

If I lived in Beach Haven, this would become a staple. You can tell is a local favorite by the lines extending beyond the doors.

Totally worth the wait.

The menu at Playa Bowls, Beach Haven NJ, Loscotoff 2022
Playa Bowls between 6th and 7th on N. Bay Ave.

I spoke in my last blog about how you can walk from one side of the island for sunrise to the other for sunset. It’s a fantastic bit of land with a small community that becomes much larger during the summer. The traffic lights only turn on in late spring and turn off in the fall–the rest of the year they are a perpetual blinking yellow light. Almost everything you need is within these few miles.

Beach Haven, New Jersey / Loscotoff 2022
To show how wide the island is, a short walk between sunrise and sunset.

Links

New Jersey – Day One

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

Surf Rakes – Beach Cleaning Equipment

Playa Bowls

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My Short Story Journey

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

Fireworks over the bay in Beach Haven, New Jersey, 4th of July / Loscotoff 2022

It was a quiet 4th of July in Beach Haven.

Who am I kidding? The hoards of people came in and lined the beaches. The firecrackers popped and zinged. The night before, the air was filled with explosions, and laughter was heard long past 2 am.

The weather was that perfect mix of humid salty air and a cool breeze. Still far too hot for me in the sun, but we took a quick walk to the shore. Cousin Pat likes to say she’s checking that the beach is still there, and after living through Tropical Storm Sandy, she’s only half joking.

The umbrellas were lined up as far as the eye could see, both to the north and to the south.

This island is constantly in a fight with the tides, the sands transform daily. Artificial dunes are maintained to protect the homes on this spit of sand with fines for walking along their edges

Assured that the beach still existed, and not wanting to fight the crowds, we spent a relaxing day at the house, protected by the shade and hearing the crash of the waves in the distance.

As the sun lowered in the sky, we made our way to the west side of the island where the fireworks would reflect over the bay. We found our way early and settled on the wooden benches that overhang the water.

Teens wandered the area in enormous groups, the girls wearing a uniform of cutoff short shorts and midriff mini tops. The boys indulged in their collections of fireworks and groups of people would scream and run as they set them off in the middle of the crowds. Police roam the multitudes, taking alcohol from underage hands and pouring it out, without reprimand or ticket.

We hide somewhere along the edge and secretly I looked for an exit, imagining us leaping into the water should the screams of giddy excitement turn to something more like terror. I hate that that’s where my thoughts live when I am among crowds of people; how to escape with my family if this turns… bad.

Others line wooden benches, eating ice cream and acai bowls. We collectively watch as the sky streaks yellow and then orange and red. We watch the seagulls as they dip and dive over the water, searching for the small fish along the surface.

As the skies darken, we can see along the distant shore, the other side of the bay, the New Jersey mainland. Fireworks begin to shoot up in tiny bursts with every town on the bay’s western side having their own show. At one point, we see six shows happening in the distance.

I imagine our fireworks start much later than theirs because our backdrop is the sunset and theirs is the sunrise. Their view of the east darkens quickly while ours lingers. It is a clear difference of perspectives, one that has continued to linger over me as we sit waiting. I don’t feel particularly like celebrating freedom right now as I see women losing their rights. I don’t feel good about fireworks and pollution when we are facing climate crises around the world. I am aware of my anxiety over who in the crowd might be there to hurt others instead of being there to watch the lights as they explode through the sky.

This is balanced with wanting to experience something new, with spending time with my family. As always, I am a mess of contradictions and my mind fights to overthink everything.

Dark sky with moon and small bit of sunset, people on the edge of a pier waiting for fireworks, 4th of July in Beach Haven / Loscotoff 2022

Finally, around 9:40, the first firework is shot from a barge in the bay. The crowds cheer and watch as the colors reflect in the water, creating abstract images in the dark night air.

The smoke of fireworks linger over the bay.

As the show comes to a close, the teenage boys begin to chant, “USA. USA. USA.” They return to their drinking and their explosions. The crowds begin to clear; families climb on their beach cruisers and gangs of bicyclists find their way home.

It will be another long night as teenagers make their way to the beach to party on the sand, roving around the neighborhoods, avoiding police. The personal fireworks ring through the air.

The cool night air kisses my skin and there are no bugs to speak of. Sitting outside on the porch listening to the waves crash on the sand brings moments of peace amongst the chaos.

Links

Photos of the teens – By Pat Trotter

New Jersey – Day One

Cousin Pat – Pat Trotter Photography

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