I just spent a (much too short) long weekend in New Jersey with my best friend Liz and her family. If you follow me on social media It’s easy to see that I’m having tons of fun on these visits. What you can’t see in those posts is how much of a total all-over recharge I’m getting. For me, heading up to Liz’s house is like running for cover to live in a cocoon–with tons of laughter and beach air–for a few days. When it’s time for me to leave I’m sad, but I am renewed. Part of that feeling of renewal is from going to the beach.

Spending time walking on the sand while breathing in the ocean air is life-giving for me.

When Liz and I head out to our favorite New Jersey beaches, what we do and say has become an accidental routine that repeats itself each and every time on each and every beach, and the ritual of it all feels like a huge oceanside hug to me:

1. We stop before we get all the way down to the water’s edge, breathe in, and exclaim how awesome beach air is.

2. One of us gives a statement on the height and power of the whitecaps at that moment. The other one of us will usually repeat that later.

3. We look for (and point out to the other person) boats, ships, dolphins, surfers, and swimmers.

4. We point out what’s on the other side of the water, whether it’s Europe (when we’re at Cape May Beach) or Manhattan (when we’re at Sandy Hook).

Hey there, Manhattan, hey!

5. Liz always talks about how her dad used to bring home petrified wood and make lamps out of it. He passed away recently so this time those stories were extra meaningful.

6. We walk up and down the beach, heads down, looking for sea glass and shells. We stick them in pockets, purses, or plastic bags. There’s always a theme find for each of us, and it’s not determined until we get there what that will be. On this visit I found tons of scallop shells, my favorite. Liz collected oyster shells.

Liz and I came across this random collection of fresh fruit and as we stood there staring and talking about how cool it looked strewn over the sand she said that it looked like perhaps there had been some ritual taking place there earlier so we ran away.

7. One of us will declare that “I could sit here and watch these waves All. Day. Long.” That same person will make that declaration again five minutes later because it’s still true. Usually the other person repeats it at some point. (Perhaps ocean air makes us flighty.) Related and repeated declaration: “That sound! I love that sound!!”

8. Liz finds something mysterious-looking and as she’s saying “What’s this??” she is kicking it over, usually with her bare foot. I am always saying, “EWW GROSS! STOP!”

9. One of us will make a statement about how great we’ll sleep tonight, what with all of this beach air and the walking.

10. Talking. We do a lot of great talking on the beach.

11. NEW THIS YEAR! One of us will deliver commentary on how strong the wind is, and how at least it’s not as bad as it was the day I fell into the beach.

These beach memories with Liz are some of my favorites in life, and usually I haven’t even brushed the sand off of my feet and put my shoes back on during our final beach visit on any given trip before I’m thinking about the next time I will return.