The seaside town of Stone Harbor, N.J., does not bustle with activity. A list of things to do there goes pretty much like this:
1. Run or walk the beach in the morning.
2. Lie on the beach.
3. Body surf or boogie board the lazy Atlantic surf.
4. Buy T-shirts and hermit crabs at the 5 and 10 downtown.
5. Shop at the surf shops and candy stores and jewelry stores downtown.
6. Drink or otherwise buy booze at Fred's Tavern.
7. Bike around town.
8. Watch for terrapin turtles crossing the access road from the mainland.
9. Run or walk the beach in the evening.
10. Stand in a very long line for ice cream at the Prohibition-era parlor called Springer's.
That's kind of the whole story. Oh, you can bring board games and have your computer around. There's a dated but not quite old-fashioned move theater in town. But you won't be bombarded by ads for parasailing or wet T-shirt night at the bars. You won't be beckoned to swim with the dolphins or participate in massive beach volleyball tournaments.
No. Things here are . . . slow.
Can you throttle back your own speed? Let the tide be your guide? Can you reach back to ideas of fun and entertainment that predate YouTube? Shake the idea that the only time well spent is time spent on hard-core doing?
It's harder than it looks. One of the reasons for this is that a more or less quiet vacation leaves you alone with your own thoughts — about the constancy of the sea, maybe, compared to the fleeting nature of youth.
Also, in the quiet of these days, you find out just how deeply rooted your mental to-do list is, and how uncomfortable it can be when you first try to set it aside. If you're a thinks-too-much type, you bring, even to a place like this, a 21st century mission to DO THE VACATION RIGHT.
Eventually, the sea lures you in. It figuratively forces you to abide by the Zen of its tides. It literally lures you in to feel the whirl of salt water around your legs and the thrill of a watching a wave aim right for you.
Jump the wave or ride it. Float and forget your to-do list.
There's no way to do it wrong.