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First Sighting

From the BookShelf Writers

The BookShelf Writers consist of four Estero Bay women who have been writing and critiquing together for over five years. For more samples of their work, please visit www.the

Each issue, this column will feature one of the BookShelf Writers: Debbie Black, Catherine “Kiki” Kornreich, Judy Salamacha and Susan Vasquez.

July 1, 2022

Story and Illustration by Catherine Kornreich

I feel like I’ve been robbed.

I’d like to be introduced to the majestic sea as an adult, to stand at her shore in awe, with eyes that have never witnessed such grandeur, such power, such glory.

But I don’t remember the very first time I saw the ocean, because my family has vacationed at the beach forever.

I have photos of my grampa, as a young kid, clamming in Pismo with his dad. And photos of me, at about the same age, clamming, and posing behind a substantial mound of clams.  Pictures of me toddling along Cayucos beach with nothing on but a soggy cloth diaper, clutching a piece of driftwood. And a shot of me on one of Virg’s fishing vessels in Morro Bay, at about 13, proudly hoisting my wimpy orange rock cod.

Yes, I envy the newbies who experience the ocean for their first time.

Today I watched a mother with her two young children as they cautiously tiptoed to the frothy water, then joyously danced and twirled in the gentle waves. I saw the children reaching up with their newfound treasures…a piece of broken clam shell, a shiny rock, a dripping clump of sand — the mother exclaiming with joy, congratulating them on each find.

The little boy ran along the shoreline, literally trying to catch a wave in his hands, while the girl sat and dug a hole for her tiny feet.

The mother stood with her arms flung wide, fingers splayed as she continued to rotate from point to point, taking in the entire coast. Every now and then I’d see her hop a few times…both hands tented over her mouth, as she watched a ribbon of pelicans meandered over a breaking wave…or a sailboat slowly moving along the horizon.

Keeping one eye on her children, she skipped along the shallow water, chasing after the sandpipers, scooping up seaweed, waving at a seagull who flew close by.

I’d love to see the ocean through her eyes, to experience it anew.

Don’t get me wrong…I love the ocean and would be content to be beside her constantly. But I tend to go into a meditative trance, my gaze glazed somewhere in the middle distance, as she roars constant reminders of her power, and myriad birds and sea mammals nudge my peripheral vision.

I remember tumbling around in this ocean as a child — even throughout college — any time of year. The cold water would eventually numb me, but today, the thought of wading out is not one I entertain, unless it’s the Polar Bear Dip, or I’m in a wetsuit.

She still holds so many mysteries beneath her dancing surface, so many questions that we’ll never answer.

But for now, my curiosity is completely overflowing with the tableau in front of me. 

So many beachcombers are just that…people combing the beach. Looking for shells, heart shaped rocks, sea glass. Forgetting to look out at the horizon, at the pod of dolphins arcing in and out of the waves.

Paddleball, baggies full of gems, sandcastles, dogwalkers, joggers, kite-surfers, surfers, skim-boarders, sunbathers, fishermen, lovers, kayakers, collectors (everyone eventually stoops to pick something up), picnickers, kids hiding in giant holes and building sandcastles: the beach offers something for virtually everyone.

But if you don’t want to get sand on your feet, well, then, you might want to find a place to park that has a good view.

And if you want to experience the sight of the ocean for the very first time, as I do, well, you’re outta luck. Ain’t gonna happen. But you can still grab your dog, a leash, and a ball, and head on down for some fresh air, some rhythmic pounding and faithful roll of waves, birdsong, cool water and of course, sand.

And if you focus your gaze on the middle ground, halfway between the waves and the horizon, you just might be lucky enough to see those dolphins or whales go dancing by.

Even if you don’t, you’ll be happy you came to see the beach for the first time … today.

Catherine “Kiki” Kornreich is a member of The BookShelf Writers. To see more of her work, please visit

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