I loved the fragrance of the place. To me it smelled like new planet. I was positive the shore was not connected to this world; it had to have originated Someplace Else, and I was very grateful to have gotten there.
All kids love the shore: in addition to the extravagant feeling of freedom and surprise it generates, there is an inexhaustible number of things to do. One of my very favorite activities was tagging along with my brothers and wading pail-laden into the bay to catch crabs. We went every day: I think we liked it because crab-catching not only contained an element of difficulty (turning it into a game rather than work) but, no matter how clumsy or inept we were, it bore results.
It bore results because the number of crabs was countless; they were all over the place, and often came into our nets willingly, as though they were perfectly ready for a new experience on our dinner table. You couldn't not catch a crab, actually; if you were in the same spot they were, you won.
And that was one of my first experiences with utter abundance. Sand is another, of course; when you actually get your toes deep down into the sand and start counting all the little grains around your feet and realize the shore stretches out forever, you catch on to the fact that you have run into numbers too big to describe. So sand teaches abundance.
But crabs teach it even more; after all, you can eat crabs. They are a delicacy, in fact. Even to small, fussy children they taste good and sweet; and with butter sauces they can make you almost faint with happiness.
I think about those crabs, the endless parade of them, whenever I'm feeling like I can't get hold of something I need. I think: look, if the crabs are so bountiful and free 1n a tiny New Jersey shore town, bountifulness must be active in other places, too.
And when I think like that, my sense of limitation stretches wide like a loose and easy rubber band, and I feel less bound to whatever stuck place I'm in at the time.
Other people look at stars or mountains or the ocean and get the same feeling. It's a sensation of wealth, of infinity, of sheer plenitude. It's great to feel rich: it makes your step lighter and your faith deeper and your worries smaller. For a moment at least, it makes scarcity seem wholly unreal.
Or at least, it does that for me.