6PM on a beach in Spain

The sun on my back is warm and I can feel it in my bones as if I’m being warmed from the inside out. Though my eyes are closed, I know that the light that fills the beach is golden, bathing the shore in yellow light as it spills across rocks and blankets and people. Lulled into stillness by the sun, I forget about time, minutes, hours. I feel this way at home sometimes.  

Around me, a gentle lull of Spanish rises and falls, none of which I understand despite three years of high school Spanish and growing up in a city with over 3 million Spanish speakers. This Spanish is deeper, softer, more intimate than the Spanish I hear at home. It is rhythmic, almost lyrical as families and surfers discuss what families and surfers discuss at 6PM on a beach in Spain.

Two brothers, identical apart from size, are delighting in the discovery that wood floats. They began by tossing sticks into the oncoming waves and have moved on to a firewood sized log, which they’ve just thrown into the surf after spending several minutes coating it in sand. Further down the beach, their sister twirls in circles, her toes digging neat little holes in the sand, an unchoreographed dance meant for no one. 

This is the third stop on our trip. We’ve driven thousands of kilometers in the last week and being here on the beach alone feels like a very long and deep inhale. Where Barcelona parties and San Sebastian eats, Llanes rests. Or at least it feels that way to me. The sleepy, terra cotta roofed villages that sit nestled at the bottom of the mountains are almost too picturesque to be real, except they are real and we really are here amongst them. 

Sitting here, I feel the past week hit me. All at once— dancing until 5AM to music I don’t understand. Watching the sun rise from an open window in Barcelona. Feeling the cool air of a humid morning envelop me with the promise of another warm day. Staring up at the pillars of the Sagrada Familia in silent awe. Seeing hundreds of balconies adorned with the Catalonian flag. Standing at the end of a crowded pintxos bar in San Sebastián, the counter before me heavily laden with brightly colored meats and vegetables perched precariously atop slices of crusty bread. Seeing the sun behind five coves at once, turning the sky a different color in every direction. Every new flavor, every new person, every new place I’ve seen in the last seven days sinks into me all at once and I am scrambling to hang on to every single one of them. 

The surfers are dotted in a cluster out in the water, their neoprene clad bodies nearly identical from the shore. A mass of slick black dots, they wait on the rhythm of the waves. Amongst them is Victor, who with a cold and lingering sense of exhaustion said multiple times that he wasn’t surfing today. But we are here, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.