This summer is only two days old, but already it has a theme.

It is The Summer of Fluidity. Not nearly as much fun as the summer two few years ago that everyone knew as The Summer of Frozen Drinks, or the one in the year 2000 that became The Year of Camping Trips Every Few Weeks.

Nope, this is fluidity—not just because it has rained every day for weeks on end, and “fluids” are starting to come through the porch skylights and are thundering through the drainpipes—but also because we are living the kind of life where nobody is ever sure what’s happening from day to day.

It’s kind of fun, actually. This is the first summer I can remember when I didn’t have a book due on September first, which in itself is astonishing. There are whole HOURS in the day when I am not typing. And I am not being awakened in the middle of the night by some character in the book who has chosen 3 a.m. as the time to finish telling me a story I MUST include in the final draft.

Also—Stephanie is back at home, at least part-time, between her internship with a casting director in New York and her various babysitting jobs. She comes back and forth so much she’s practically a commuter, which is lovely because she knows something that very few people know about the world, and that is that it is necessary to go to the ocean as often as possible.

I had forgotten this fact of life—surprising since I was raised on the beaches of Florida and then transplanted to the beaches of Southern California, and I spent three-quarters of my early life sitting on some damp towel on one of the coasts, contemplating whether I should make another sand castle or if the last one would suffice.

This is why it’s a good idea to have children: they remind you of things you always knew but may have forgotten while you were busy trying to raise them and make sure they got their homework done and brushed their teeth.

Stephanie returned from college this year just slightly worn out—sick and tired and overworked and oversaturated with city life—and she knew immediately that she needed to go to the beach. “I think the beach is nature’s hospital,” she told me. “And that’s where I need to be.”

And so that’s what we do. We bought a season pass so we don’t have to feel guilty if we can only spend an hour or so there—and we head for nature’s hospital whenever it is not absolutely pouring rain. Cloudy days are even fine. They have their own charm at the hospital, I’ve found—a kind of peace and quiet. I don’t even mind huddling under the blankets in the cold and sipping hot tea.

There’s something else about nature’s hospital that I’ve realized. It has an incredible arts and crafts unit—plenty of shells and rocks and seaweed to work with. Lately I find myself collecting little rocks that look like teeth and creating what could only be called “mouth sculptures” all along my towel.

Soon, I know, one of those mouth sculptures is going to start talking to me, telling me some story that I’ll realize needs to be written down and that perhaps will turn into my next novel.

But for now, it’s enough that it’s just me, the clouds, the little teeth, and the daughter—all of us spending the Summer of Fluidity in nature’s intensive care ward.