The sand was buttery and grainy, yellow. There was no breeze and the waves lapped quietly at the shore.
The sky was a deep blue, but not a hot blue.
It was a dreamland beach.
Oh, but the water was cold. It hurt her feet; it really hurt them when she tried to paddle.
She ran back to the cotton sheet they had spread out on the beach.
Her feet felt alive.
Fifteen minutes later, she tried again. This time, the water reached her knees before she had to escape and run back to the warmth radiating from the autumn sand. Her legs tingled.
A Norwegian couple strode into the water and started to swim, but they couldn't stay long in the water; once their costumes were wet and their hair soaked, they abandoned the gentle swell and lay down together.
But she couldn't stop.
Waist-high, the water numbed the lower half of her body completely; she tried to stand there as long as she could to beat the pain, challenged by the Nordic bathers.
It was too cold. The water fought her legs as she strode back on to the sand, but the feeling was exhilarating.
Next time, the water reached her her shoulders, and the time after that she swam tentatively, forcing her arms and legs through the bitter cold of the water that threatened to drag her into its icy embrace.
Less than five minutes, but when she lay on the beach again it seemed as though her entire body had woken; the grey, sticky cobwebs that had clung to her for the last year had finally been washed away.
It was time to go, but there was one last thing that she had to do.
As the strength of the tide increased, she walked taller into the Atlantic, fighting the fear of drowning in the numbing cold. She stood as part of the sky, the sea and the sand, a creature made of atoms; she sunk her entire body into the ocean, her head, and her hair.
She let the sea take her, cleanse her, refresh her, recreate her. She let the sea take the dust of despair away from her and wash away the chalk marks that had damned her, and take away the oil streaks left behind by broken machines long ago.
'This is the beginning', she said.