People respond to the sun in many different ways. I fully enjoy it. I like the heat, I tan easily and I never forget the magic of living within the perfect proximity to an enormous star of almost infinite power. I have baked myself on rooftops, beaches, parks, rafts, docks, boats, rocks, car hoods and the sidewalk. The sun is always strong, as my freckled shoulders can attest. The sun is reliable and predictable. Americans have quite a love affair with the sun. We have numerous tanning products available as well as ‘after sun’ recuperation merchandise. We have tanning oil, tanning salons, and bronzers. Tan skin equates healthiness and is represented as a salubrious answer to the “cabin fever” of the previous winter. Summer is a time for tanning.
In Korea, it is not so popular. The girls carry small, cute, floral parasols on sunny days like a Victorian duchess. The products in the store are mostly whiteners or brighteners, and everything contains an SPF. You can walk through any subway in Seoul and catch at least a dozen whiffs of that lovely beach smell of suntan lotion and soft skin. However, on my latest trip to the beach I saw four extremely oily guys laying on silver reflective surfaces. It was surprising, but only because they were the only ones without shirts on—besides my friends and me. The Koreans swim in clothes. They wear shorts and shirts, and sometimes sweaters. They are fully drenched in salty water and caked with sand, maintaining both protection from the sun and their modesty.
In Australia, the large majority of people live within 50 miles of the coast. They are an extensive beach community posing as a country. Blond hair and tan skin is everywhere. In southern Thailand and the surrounding islands, they have grown up on the sunny beaches. Their skin has become a toned, creamed coffee color. They live within and upon the beaches.
The sun is a friend of the beach. They go well together. I notice the sun more when I’m around sand. It has always been my happy place. Digging toes into sand, “drippy castles”, wave riding in any fashion and the general camaraderie present at the beach are reminders of the good, easy things in life.
As a young child on the Jersey shore, the ocean contained all the mystery my wild imagination could handle. You can walk to the edge of a forest or touch the bottom of a river. Although the stars will always be amazing, uncountable and unfathomable, they are too distant and intangible to really understand or truly perceive. The ocean surrounds you, full of intense power and unanswerable questions. The stingrays, horseshoe crabs, sharks, jellyfish and giant squid within those deep borders mystify people of all ages. They are all made possible by the sun.
It’s no surprise that this Earth would not exist were it not for the gracious gift of sunshine. There were ancient cultures that worshipped the sun as their God. Now, science has helped us in our awareness of the sun, thereby taking away some of its past mystery. We can still enjoy the sun while respecting its authority. You can’t beat the sun, and sunburns suck. But I will continue to look forward to my sun filled summers on whatever beach I may be.