In summertime, when the living is breezy, there's an invention that I wish were mine -- the no-blow beach umbrella.
A few entrepreneurs have rescued shade-seeking beachgoers by creating devices that keep umbrellas upright in the sand, even on very windy days.
The answer? It was right at our feet. Sand. Specifically, sandbags.
How many beautiful beach days had I sat beneath our umbrella, my hand on the pole, the wind rocking it back and forth? I'd watch other umbrellas blow over, tumble along the sand like missiles, the poles' spiky points set to stab sleeping sun-worshippers. Nothing seemed to hold umbrellas in place. We brought our garden trowel to dig deeper holes. We invested in umbrellas with corkscrew ends. We wedged rocks around the poles. But the wind always won. On breezy days, we inevitably put the umbrella away and it was back to the sizzling sun.
I have a vampiric attitude toward that skin-scorching star. Although I'm cool with its photosynthesis, and I respect the sun's no-life-on-Earth-without-it aspect, I crave my shade.
We Long Islanders love our beach time. But we also need protection. I pack sunscreen with SPF numbers to rival the Dow Jones industrial average. Plus two umbrellas. But when the wind blows, the umbrella goes.
Friends fresh from a trip to Hawaii mentioned that enterprising Hawaiians would fill a pillowcase with sand and tie it to the umbrella, anchoring it to the ground.
"It's so simple!" said my friend Celeste, swiping through vacation photos on her cellphone.
I Googled the idea immediately and found a few products. The basics are the same, using sand as ballast. There seem to be two approaches: One is a tall nylon bag filled with sand and cinched closed at the base of the umbrella, with connecting straps running up the top and fastened with Velcro. Another uses multiple bags with ropes attached to the umbrella spokes. The first style has less equipment and a shorter setup. The latter, however, provides a wider perimeter for your beach spot, keeping neighbors at a comfy distance and preventing plop-downs by latecomers who inevitably block your ocean view.
Of course, securing my umbrella is only part of the problem. It saves my skin from burning, but doesn't prevent me from being impaled by other people's projectile umbrellas. Therefore, I beseech my fellow beachgoers: Let's keep Long Island shores safe. Sandbag your umbrellas!
Reader Paula Ganzi Licata lives in Bellmore.