Escape to ‘The Third Coast’

“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” ~Kate Chopin, “The Awakening.”

I could live there, on ‘the third coast,’ if I had a million bucks!

The property prices are pumped and primed for real estate investors and the chosen few, from what I understand. That ain’t us. Then again, there’s always ‘the beach bum’ option. Hey, I was raised by Depression Era parents. I know how to make my underpants into rags and a turkey leg into soup for 10!

But instead, I’m another escapee rolling down the well-worn Interstate to Port Aransas, Texas, on Mustang Island, affectionately called Port ‘A,’ for a dip in a dreamy rest-bit from the maddening realities of our busy urban lives.

Five grand can get you a guarantee of family time, fun in the sun, wading and diving through the white-capped waves, and the novelty of island life, if just for a week. It was worth every penny.

IMG_5434With a rented resort house for 12, decorated in monochromatic hues of sea green, ocean blue, sand, white, and weathered with a bit of salty wind; we were in Heaven. Fresh white linens, coral and shell table accents, fragrant lotions at every basin, and an inviting living space…spacious and filled with natural light…graced our lazy day-to-day.

A private pool? Of course. Peaceful swim time and playful grandkids floating on noodles and diving for colorful rings; we had the luxury of both. Cha-ching!

A golf-cart ride through town…on to the beach with the other beach buggies, Coppertone wafting through the gulf breeze, pelican and seagulls riding the air stream above, bold-colored kites whippin’ in the wind, the smell of grilling southern spices and beach fires by night encircled by warmed summer smiles laced our laziness with adventure.IMG_0005

Rows of Creamsicle-colored cottages calmed our screen-stressed eyes, picket fences with crooked gates led up sandy paths of wild roses and sea grass to sleepy porches, a wicker chair, and an easy read in the soft afternoon.

Salty air and sandy flip flops; a sun-kissed glow and flowing clothes reminded me that I’m not just an aging work horse, but a woman…soft, free, sensuous and wise…beneath my wide-brimmed hat.

Beachy boutiques, artist’s pottery, sea glass, mermaid watercolors, and sizzling bar & grill restaurants…shrimp, flounder, fried-fish sandwiches…invited the tourist in all of us.

The trusty Coast Guard station flashed me back to my northern coastal life. It was familiar, the fishing boats and massive freighters passing through Aransas Pass into Corpus Christi Ship Channel. Their lights, horns, bells, in natural agreement with the coastal geography whispered of the 18-mile barrier Mustang Island and Port A’s rich history, of Harbor Island’s seaport industry exporting cotton, the fishing industry, the cottage life, and the smart move to tourism that saved their economy. I could see it’s ghosts, the nomadic Karankawa tribe gathering oysters and spear fishing, the Civil War soldiers entrenched in violent battles, the hardy, daring people who fought, struggled, and settled the island now buried there along with pirate treasures and fish bones.

The lights of the harbor, sail boats in the bay, bent-legged, rutty-old fishermen on the seawall throwing out their nets; the town lives on.

IMG_5526Alone…buoyant, light, held freely in the amniotic fluid of the crystal clear pool where I floated on my back in the late afternoon into the water-muffled evening; my view: the clean lines of our yellow house, stark blue sky, bright white trim and picket fences subtly strung with starfish. An occasional seagull flapping by and palm tree leaves that swayed in and out of my view accepted all my physical and mental stress and carried it away on the cool, nightly sea breeze. Beautiful, nurturing emptiness was its returning gift.

IMG_2854As one of my granddaughters said as she 81650splashed and glided, “This is the most beautiful yellow house I’ve ever seen! I’m having the best vacation ever.”

Tarpon’s Bar & Grill, Victoria’s On the Bay, Fin’s Restaurant & Grill, The Phoenix Restaurant and bar, and Coffee Waves; the flavors of the island served by easy-going, laid back islanders. Can’t go wrong.

Ghost crabs clicking across the path, dolphins almost within reach, and blue heron like city officials standing around the marshes, seagulls hovering, and sea shells in our hands added to our discoveries.

Tanned, weathered beach people, artsy-fartsy folks, young and old, bikini babes, neon-suited toddlers, glistening-muscled boys, your classic ‘Jimmy Buffet’ old men, tourists and locals…mingled into one big happy family.

IMG_2791Plunging into the foaming waves and running out getting toasty in the warmth of the sun; a cold beer, skin sizzling and heads shaded under canopies, a packed cooler, beach chair dozing and the long walk up from the beach left footprints on our days.

Even the merchants seem to be having fun ‘Flamingo Flocking’ each other! For $25 paid to the local 8th grade class for a school trip; the students would plant dozen of pink plastic flamingoes outside a business. Potters on Cotter had been ‘flocked’ the morning we were visiting and the artist said the business owners in town were having a ball flocking each other. In the meantime, the 8th graders were filling their fund-raising coffer.  Seriously, what a great idea!

I could live like this forever…float, tool around in a golf cart, get my island coffee, and wear nothing by a bathing suit, big hat, and loose-fitting shawls….and never miss my house, all my dusty ‘stuff,’ the chaos of pets, cars, traffic, and, well, just the caged, motionless chaos.

Calmed tempers, lazy days, coloring, board games, naps; our coastal vacation was reminiscent of those ‘up north’ days in my northern youth of cabins, lakes and rivers, and quieted paths. Some days I never even turned on my phone, and my laptop was never opened; we all just ‘talked’ and rediscovered each other.

It shouldn’t take five grand to do that.

Even the long lines of traffic leaving the island and boarding the ferry didn’t dampen my island spirit. I was amazed to see so many cars, for most of our days were quiet and unfettered by crowds with limited wait time for tables; people were there, but busy with their own alone time and family gatherings, under their own canopies and porch lights.

IMG_2786Locals and tourists alike were easy-going, music kept in their own ear-shot, exchanging neighborly pleasantries; civil and polite. I think there’s magic in the water.

The coastal sun, salt and sea, and ‘change’ from the monotony of our daily pressures seemed to bring out the best in folks. I’m sure more than a few of us think about chucking it all just to live the island life, as a tired but jovial waitress at an open-air bar and grill shared. She moved from Austin and was living in little fixer-upper, working double shifts just to make it there. She said she couldn’t even afford to buy the coconut cream pie she was serving us, but she wouldn’t change a thing for she loved her life on Port ‘A’ so much. Imagine. We bought her a piece of pie. She cried with gratitude.

It was just that kind of place, you know, like towns one sees in Hallmark movies but one thinks doesn’t really exist.

IMG_5514Many Texans know about ‘Port A’ and have traditionally rented beach houses, RV’ed their way down, camped on the beach, and have histories in that endearing get-away resort town. Even my own kids have vacationed there, gotten engaged amid the sand castles at sunset, have their favorite hang-outs, and can hobnob with the locals.

Where have we been?

I think the days of living by our mantra ‘pay now, play later’ have finally shifted. It’s time to play now as much as we can, even if we don’t have bronzed beach bodies and a cooler full of Lone Star beer! As they say, it’s never too late to live the life you were meant to live. Senior living on ‘the third coast’ might just be our paradise.

Port Aransas filled my senses and won my weary heart. She’s good for my skin, my spirit and my soul. The piggy bank for our next ‘week at the beach’ is starting to fill again. After needing to pull on a sweatshirt in the middle of a Texas summer night because the breeze coming off the coast was as cool as a Michigan morning, my 20-some years of southern summers suddenly looked promising!

We may be past the energy and dedication of a fixer-upper, and nowhere near financing a beach house of our own, but…I’ll be there again on her beaches as the calendar pages are torn away, embraced by her waves, and lost in the ‘the voice of the sea that speaks to the soul’ on some little porch with a sandy path to her salty shore.

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