The morning’s eerie grey light reflected off of the ocean was hanging around the street like teenagers congregating at a corner store doorway. Bringing with it a damp cold which pierced bones and withered resolve, I was fighting a decision to stay home, instead of heading to the beach.
The weatherman had predicted clear skies, and the season’s first frost, he got part of it correct, we had the season’s first frost, but the skies were grey, clouded over with low hanging clouds.
Without coffee to wake me, and the building quiet this early in the morning, the heavy camera banging rhythmically against my hip was the only noise. I made my way down the gaudily colored thread worn carpeted stairs to the parking lot, each step trying to convince me to turn back, saying you don’t want this enough to leave a cosy bed.
Misleading weather, the kind that made you think it was warmer than it was, until a damp cold heralding winter settling in like a dog in front of a warm fire, made shoulders shift, and your neck tense in anticipation of further chill.
Regret was in the pocket of the heavier jacket left in the trunk.
Heading down the steep hills nosing towards the ocean, the car’s brakes screeched each time the pedal depressed, enough to make me hope that the sound was not loud enough to wake occupants of sleeping houses lined up like soldiers on the hillside.
Bright reflective stripes parading down a joggers leg moved with a scissoring languid ease, passing a lonely dog walker who looked like he preferred his warm bed to taking his mutt for a walk, there was no one else populating my silent world viewed through the dirty car windows as it passed by.
Sunrise colored the sky watercolor peach, bleeding ruby red, staining the horizon in the east, casting it’s dim glow softly like a night light, not bright enough to illuminate slippery, frost dusted wooden planks that creaked and complained in the cold.
The parallel deep blue railings of the pier reached from the edge of the beach where the railroad tracks scarred the sidewalk, out to infinity in the dim dawn. Sailboats waited moored among the crashing surf of the salty water, giant granite rocks forming the breakwater at the end of the pier.
Giving up on the pier because the planks promise to become slicker when footsteps melt ice, the lure of the frosty sea-washed stones of the beach’s edge calls out instead. Quietly crunching down towards the water so as not to disturb the masses of birds, I end up making a path to the low tide beach. Cautiously avoiding piles of seaweed glimmering in the dawn, as crabs scamper out of my way, and gulls circling lazily overhead, breakfast on their mind.
Walking slowly, thinking out each step before moving feet among shells, and stones, an expensive fragile camera, and lack of light, along with the rush of the incoming ocean tide is making the beach walk treacherous. Slow human movements mean the sea birds ignore me while searching for a better breakfast.
At the edge of the ocean, pebbles, debris, litter, and driftwood lay scattered among the large ragged rocks being dashed by a dark ocean. The magnificently huge, blue heron stands still as a statue, camouflaged in the surf until a stretched out feathered wing brings it to my attention. The warbling wonnnnnoook of the Canada Geese catches my breath, causing an emotional stab deep in my chest, heart song vibrating in the gloom.
The dark starts to lift into a happier mood and I begin to make my way with ease in the increased light. I realize that the rubber boots in the car trunk will do me as much good as the forgotten heavier jacket. The numb feeling in my hands may be from the chill of the frost, but the coldness in my feet is from the incoming tide, as it washed over the top of my shoes soaking my socks, and skin. It’s worth the discomfort, the beach is empty of its usual disturbances, unleashed dogs barking madly at the birds, and competing chatter of power walkers. The quiet, and ocean surf relentlessly edging the beach signal calm.
Avoiding translucent mounds of alien shaped jellyfish marooned on the sand, becomes easier as the dawn breaks the sky open shimmering on the water like lace. The jellyfish dies an easier death and do not suffer the indignity of being picked clean, unlike the unfortunate crab shells scattered around.
There’s a slight change in the warmth of the air causing blood to rush into frozen fingers, and a bright ball of light glistens in the horizon. Eyes drawn towards the light, turned sightless with latent sun spots making it hard to negotiate puddles left in the sand. Once again, a splash, and wet feet, but so worth it.
The loud splash disturbs the stunning heron, he takes flight, wings beating cold air, camera shifted to eyes, trying to capture flight on film, wings powerful and faster the the shutter. The sun rises so quickly over the trees that I can track its movement in the sky, makes me feel as if I am on a safari in some exotic country.
Seabirds chirp to each other, and a whirling of wings as a mass of dark birds take flight, creating a lump in my throat that won’t disappear with swallowing. It’s raw emotion, memory searing into the brain, realization that the privilege of being here alone, unhurried, undisturbed is rare and precious.
Jarred back to reality while the power walkers loud conversation precedes the sight of their designer runners pounding the boardwalk. Peace rushed out to sea by the surf, birds soar and settle further down the beach.
Only the empty shells of the picked over crabs, aspic like mounds of dead jellyfish, and watery memories captured on camera remain.