Four couples on the beach, and a supper better than planned


I said, as I squeezed my wife’s hand

And we stood ‘twixt the water and sand

     “What better setting

     Than a beach for a wedding

Things turn out better than planned.”

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  After a six-week assignment in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States, I’m working on the North Island of New Zealand.

In the later parts of yesterday’s leisurely afternoon off, Bethany and I walked down to a beach about a kilometer away.  Cars whizzed by us on the steep winding road down, the only possible destination the car park at the bottom.

Under cloudy skies, we realized on our arrival at the Matheson Bay Beach that we’d found a wedding in progress, about a hundred and fifty meters away, at the other end of the strand.

We spied a couple floating on a raft, another swimming, and we shed our t-shirts and outer wear undeterred by the festivities.

I waded into the salt water, then dove in and swam ten strokes out.  I trod water and encouraged Bethany, who immersed more gradually.

She didn’t mean to show off, but she is a strong swimmer. 

The couple on the raft, younger than us, and the other couple in the water, older than us by a decade, finished swimming and left the water.  The day waned and we came out of the surf as the music from the wedding drifted across the sand, barely audible over the waves.  I thought about the maturation of relationships and how a beach can set the scene for romance, even by the Arctic Ocean.

This morning the power went out.  Most of the houses in Leigh rely for water from tanks filled with rain, and, without electricity we had no pump.  We drove through a light drizzle to the Matakana grower’s market; we bought locally made macadamia nut butter.  By the time we came back, the rain had changed to a downpour and power had been restored.

We had failed to buy groceries or plan for supper tonight; we didn’t make reservations at the Leigh Sawmill Café, and we didn’t want to drive back to the trendy, expensive Matakana eateries.  Nor did we want to have fish and chips again.

Which left the Portside café as the walking-distance option. 

While the sun set we strode past glorious trophy homes with For Sale signs hard by sheep pastures and weather-beaten houses in over-grown lots.

A crowd of Australian fishing tourists drinking beer filled the two rooms.  As we seated ourselves, Bethany pointed out a snail on my seat cushion, and we started to wait.

While I enjoy the New Zealand’s custom of not tipping, I have to admit that service suffers.  After a bit, Bethany got up and brought back a menu, while the Aussies continued to wander in and the noise level went from loud to painful.

Nothing on the menu looked appealing.

On the way home we discussed dinner possibilities.

“We’ve got bread and cheese,” I said.

“I could make grilled cheese sandwiches,” she said.  We walked on.  “With onions.”

I said, “Mm, we have lots of onions.  I could fry some with the last of the mushrooms.”

“And we have those olives.”

Supper came out as a smashing success.  I took my time sautéing the mushrooms, caramelizing the onions. 

We agreed that supper at home turned out far tastier and more relaxed than anything we could have bought.

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