A day in the life: Maggie McDonald

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This blog post first appeared July 18, 2019 on Dru’s Book Musings, the Raven-award-winning blog by Dru-Ann Love. Thanks, Dru, for your hospitality, warmth, and friendship!

I’m still recovering from a terrifying spate of adventures, so I’m hoping you can join me on a day without drama, murder, plane crashes, or other threats.

If you want that kind of excitement, pick up one of those stories Mary Feliz writes. She bills them as cozy mystery fiction but with one disaster after another, they take their toll on my family. Never mind.
I’ve landed in paradise this summer, a small condo resort on the shores of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary about an hour from my home. My days start early, when my golden retriever Belle wakes me for our walk. On our way to the beach we stop on the stairs over the dunes to sniff the seaweed scented air.
Barefoot in the cool sand, Belle and I set off. A harbor seal bobs in the water just off shore peering at us above the swell. Belle is drawn to the water’s edge. She lifts her nose and flares her nostrils, mirroring the creature who looks like a water-based kinsman. They share the same dark eyes, stiff whiskers, elongated snout, smooth fur, and cheerful, inquisitive expression. The seal dives and Belle and I walk on, combing tide-exposed beach for sand dollars.

Summer shorebirds probe the intertidal zone for plump shrimp-like creatures. I hear a knocking sound and look up. Belle points her nose toward a sea otter floating on its back in the waves, banging a clam against a rock that he holds snug on his belly. Once the shell is breached, he slurps the meat inside, cleans his fur, flips over, and dives again. Looking like marine teddy bears in repose, otters seem cuddly at a distance, but I’m grateful for the twenty feet of gentle surf that separates us from his sharp teeth and claws.

As we reach the state beach, I wave to the lifeguards unlocking their station and setting up. Parents carrying steaming mugs join their offspring in chasing waves, digging holes, and building castles.

Fishermen pull their lines and pack their gear. “Good haul?” I nod at one man’s heavy bucket. He grins. “Stripers,” he says, though striped bass are unusual this late in the season. He speaks in an accent I can’t identify, which is typical at our beach. Tourists and residents converse in a mixture of native tongues including several I can’t identify.

But the squeals of laughter as children race from the waves are similar in any language and the forts the families build are identical.

The morning fog burns away, and we head back to the condo for breakfast with my husband Max and our teenaged boys. Afterwards, I’ll move to the resort’s less prosaic office area to ply my trade as a professional organizer, clearing clutter, making storage more efficient, and streamlining procedures for the management team and staff. Every step we take needs to fall within complex environmental laws that protect this sensitive area with its hundreds of species of migrating birds, native plants and wildflowers, foxes, bob cats, and the occasional mountain lion.

The smell of fresh coffee tells me Max is already up. I dust sand from my feet and bend to unclip Belle’s leash. I frown, shudder, and pinch a tick from her thick coat, crushing it under the foot of a deck chair. Even paradise has the occasional vile intruder. But if dealing with ticks is the price of admission, I’ll pay up, hoping the bill doesn’t come due too often.

What will the rest of my day hold? An afternoon excursion with the kids? A sunset stroll with Max? Fresh salmon for supper with succulent artichokes and juicy local strawberries? All of the above, with a fire to warm us as a chilly layer of fog rolls back on shore. The fresh air and exercise that typify our time here make for early bedtimes. Any day with my husband, kids, and devoted dog is a great day, but a boring one makes it near perfect.

Mary Feliz