^ Usually, when I'm at Mukilteo Beach, I crave a view that look like this one.
Calm, serene, natural landscapes with nary a human in sight.
I love to come here to this beautiful place and take a break from mankind. I come because I crave a deserted place, away from my hectic friends, Romans and countrymen.
But the truth is that this beach is a popular hotspot in a busy suburb and I can only enjoy these idyllic scenes by rubbing shoulders with crowds of humans.
Even during my visit yesterday, on a quiet Monday afternoon, there were groups of people gathered here and there along the shore and throughout the park. And while I usually try my darnedest to ignore the other human beings, on this day, I found myself fascinated with their goings-on.
^ Scuba divers chit-chatting above the water about their adventures down below, as the ferry lazily rolls in.
^ Groups of all ages and stages of life amiably share the sunshine - little ones play on the rocky beach as their parents sit near the shoreline, grandparents enjoy their quiet solitude on the beach logs, and several packs of teenagers congregate out on the docks.
^ And the crowds are not just composed of humanoids. These two women attracted a massive flock of pigeons and gulls, only a few of which stuck around to pose for my picture.
^ Then the flock attracted these two darling little girls who made it their day's work to chase the birds away. As many as fifty winged beasts would cover this lawn, hunting and pecking for crumbs, only to be swooped down upon by these two feisty lassies. In a flash, the entire group would rise up and flap away in mass hysteria, as the girls beamed with pleasure.
^ On the far side of the parking lot, I noticed these rail cars, parked on a siding and covered with beautiful graffiti. Though the artists were nowhere in sight, my mind's eye imagined a group of seasoned spray can artists gathered around these steel behemoths in the dark of night. I hear the clinking and clanging of the mixing balls inside the cans, as they are shaken over and over again in the painting process, and the faint hiss of the paint escaping the nozzles. I'd love to see the graffiti crowd in action.
^ Walking to my car, I heard a highly distinctive kind of laughter. Yep. A crowd of teenage girls, engrossed in a volleyball game, were giggling as only teenage girls can giggle. And I noticed something else. They were all wearing long sleeves, long pants and headscarves. Instantly, I thought of my Malaysian friends who imagine America as a place hostile and unaccepting toward Muslims, and I smiled to myself. If only they could see - and hear - this crowd of young Muslim girls, they would understand.
* * * * *
I'll be honest. I still prefer to focus on the natural elements of my hometown waterfront: the sea and sky, the wind and waves, the forested island across the channel and the rock- and tree-strewn shores. This is where I find true relaxation and beauty; these are the sights that soothe my soul.
But today I learned that when I give them half a chance, the crowds at my local beach can cultivate my curiosity and inform my imagination in a different yet satisfying way. Maybe humans aren't so bad after all.