MEGAN SAMPSON, San Clemente

The same night we started hearing leaked reports that Gov. Gavin Newsom would be closing California beaches (one week after San Clemente City Council graciously reopened them for active—not passive—use), I was down at the beach watching my husband and kids surf the bioluminescent red tide.

I watched them surf well into the dark of night. As their feet splashed and their boards moved, the sea would turn fluorescent turquoise beneath them. I was mesmerized and had hardly looked away for nearly an hour. After they came in and we were walking up the beach together, I was shocked to see the beach filled with onlookers.

People had come from far and wide to marvel at the sea. They were all in their individual groups of two to six. All appeared to be with their individual families, but it felt like a festival. A festival unlike any that I’d ever been to before.

This impromptu festival had nothing for sale. There were no vendors. There was no music (except for a homeless guy playing his guitar near the stairs). This festival celebrated the Earth. This festival marveled at nature. Standing on the beach were hordes of onlookers taking in the sea of fireworks. For a moment, everything felt right.

My heart was bursting with joy and wonderment. In this moment, it felt like we were all starting to understand our place here in this terrifying beautiful world we live in. Our place to stand in awe at the edge of the seashore together, but also apart.

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