There were a lot of them. Gathered in a group, moving with purpose. Where did they come from and where are they going?
Seagulls are usual. They congregate, squawking and arguing over who gets the bag of cheetos stolen from the blanket. Shorebirds with their long thin beaks poke the wet sand in search of snacks. Whimbrels and godwits are shy, scattering as I creep near. I’m always on the lookout for egrets, tall and elegant with bright yellow feet. Sometimes they feed in pairs or triads, but mostly seem to lead a solitary life.
When the little girl approached the group, I expected them to take flight. Rise into the sky in unison. But they didn’t. As I got closer, I saw they were traveling together, one after the other like school kids heading from the classroom to somewhere. They were unperturbed when I came close with my camera from behind. And not concerned when I ran ahead and took my photos from the front of the line, in fact, the lead duck nearly walked right into me!
I’m still wondering about that sord of mallards (if they had taken flight they would have been called a flock). In all my walks on the beach over the years, this is my first sighting of mallards on a pilgrimage. Where did they come from? Where were they going?
I never need an excuse to walk on the beach, but if I did need one, low tide is the best of all reasons! Though gloomy and gray today, the tide was nice and low, giving a wide expanse for walking and exposing the intertidal zone–more commonly known as tide pools.
Most of the time when I peer into the tide pools I see sea anemones, mussels, and crabs, some sea grass and algae and not much else. We often talk about how rare it is to see a sea star–even though they are native to our area. Today as we walked near the tide pools, my husband noticed a woman putting what looked like sea star into a shallow pool. We headed in that direction.
Sure enough, there it was. A quite large–the size of my hand or maybe bigger–sea star was sitting in the pool. As we stopped and looked we could see the tiny tube feet moving, propelling the star–it was alive! So many questions–where did she find the star? Was it in one of these shallow pools? Was she rescuing it, returning it to the watery pool? Or did she pull it from a pool and was now returning it?
As we left, the tide was on the way up. I’m sure the sea star will find its way back to the place where it lives, somewhere where I seldom see them. I’m glad I got a close look today…so it could provide fodder for today’s poem.
A walk on the beach also means noticing all the ways that people use the beach. There’s recreation, meditation, entertainment, sun bathing, fishing, castle building, rock stacking…and art. Today I came across some temporary art, raked into the sand. And later, farther down the beach, came across the artist creating another piece. And these circles, carved by an artist, became the basis for today’s poem.
Exploring with my camera is a way to clear my head, to relax, and to pay attention to the world. But I have to admit, the monotony of a lockdown year has taken its toll. I’ve had to work to find new ways to look at the things I have seen over and over again.
For a change of pace, today we headed up the coast to a seaside town about 30 miles north of here. We did a bit of shopping and then, of course, headed out to the beach to walk and take photos.
I know, I know…I take beach photos regularly. But a different place offers a different vantage. Today I found myself focused on lines. We parked near the train station and right away my eye was drawn to the parallel levels of lines…the train tracks, the fence line, and the horizon line of the ocean behind. (And the blues were magnificent today!)
As I stepped up closer to the fence to peer over at the ocean, a series of horizontal lines came into view.
We had intended to walk the seaside trail parallel to the shore, but on the east side of the train tracks. Unless the tide is low, there isn’t much beach to walk on this beach. We started off–but the summer-like weather brought out the crowds–and the trail was feeling pretty uncomfortable with a combination of runners and walkers, dogs on leashes, and bikes (both electric and pedal-powered) whizzing past. At the first staircase access to the beach, we headed to the sand, realized the tide was low and getting lower, so decided that the shoreline was out best walking choice. There were still people, but they were much more spread out–in the water and laying in the sun–giving us a wide, unencumbered walking space.
As we passed the pier, I could hear aircraft. Helicopters are pretty usual. We have military bases nearby, coast guard copters, and of course people out to see the sights from above. But when I looked up I noticed a small plane cruising by…right over the pier. More lines.
Every time I visit a pier I feel compelled to take a few shots from beneath. There is something about the view of the ocean through the elaborate under structure that fascinates. Each pier is a bit different–some have a specific “door” to look through. This one does not, but it does have lots and lots of different lines to look at.
Even the pigeons managed to get in on the line action today. They were hanging out not far from the fishing people on the pier. Just waiting.
So is there anything significant about all these lines? This would be the time for the pithy conclusion to give meaning to a series of photos featuring lines. Instead, I appreciate a day slightly different from the ones that preceded it. And a perspective that took my eye in some different directions. Hope you also enjoy these lines, in all their insignificance.
I figured a listicle would be in my future sometime during 31 consecutive days of writing for the Slice of Life Challenge. And today is the day. So the following is my short list of satisfactions from this Saturday in particular.
Sleeping in. Somehow my body hasn’t quite adjusted to the “spring forward” command from weeks ago. I keep wanting to go to bed early each night and then find myself awake before my alarm clock. Even with no alarm clock set today, I found myself awake before my usual 5:30am wake up time. But it was Saturday, so after scrolling through some news on my phone I cuddled back under the covers and went back to sleep for a while. It felt heavenly!
Breakfast…with love. Most days I grab a yogurt, sprinkle a few berries and some granola on top, and voila, that’s breakfast! But today my husband made french toast–not the toaster kind–the real kind dipped in an egg mixture and topped with powdered sugar and served with a side of bacon and fresh grapefruit. Definitely a Saturday Satisfaction!
An egret sighting on the low-tide beach. I love an egret sighting anytime. I didn’t think it was going to happen today. I was more than halfway back when I noticed an egret fly in for a snack. I picked my way across the slick reef, trying to get close enough for an interesting photo. It didn’t stay long…there were too many people exploring the tide pools today…but I did get this straight on shot!
The exuberance of young people. I love watching young people on the beach. I am reminded of the verve and energy that teens bring to life…which reminds me of the importance of diving in, following my own passions, and embracing each day as it comes.
Living close enough to have the beach be my daily happy place. While I don’t go quite every day, knowing that I can access the beach with a short drive is a gift. When our beaches closed last year during the pandemic, I was heartbroken. It was hard to stay away, hard to see the ocean from a distance but not with my feet on the sand, and hard to find joy in my replacement neighborhood walks. Each day I revel in the wonders of living near the sea–and try hard not to take it for granted.
What is under your feet and over your head today? A much needed walk took me to the beach, where after a rainy yesterday the sun shone brightly this afternoon.
I tied on my ratty sneakers, the ones with hole in the toe, knowing that I’m always at risk for a salt water foot bath, or the sneak attack of some sand covered blob of tar on the beach.
In my usual fashion, I start out walking quickly trying not to let all the sights and sounds and smells distract me as I attempt to earn my exercise minutes, and then slow down letting the environment speak to me as I pull my camera to my eye.
This jelly was nearly invisible, an almost clear glob of gelatinous organic matter. I sometimes see bits and pieces of jellies, but seldom a fully formed (and quite large) creature like this one. I’m not sure what kind of jelly this is–maybe a moon jelly? I’m happy to not have stepped on it, even though it is no longer alive.
A beautiful spring day also meant a healthy breeze blowing. I’ve been noticing more and more people playing on the beach, throwing balls, building castles, and flying kites. This one was really soaring, getting lots of loft and lift into the bright blue sky.
What did you find underfoot and overhead in your place today?
I walked into a cloud, experiencing it now from the inside out. Water drops too small to see kiss my cheeks as they swirl and dance all around me. My vision is soft-edged, everything ahead of me in vignette. Cocooned in light as the sun’s rays, wrapped in cotton balls, bounce and reflect. The world feels close and small in the cloud. I can’t see too far ahead or too far behind, I’m forced into the here and now, noticing what is right here.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the cloud lifts and opens wide, like a deep breathe and the blue appears. The world expands and the view shifts. I walk out of the fog.
I think southern Californian’s may be obsessed with weather. Or maybe it’s just me. So much of the time we really pay no attention to it. A sweatshirt is the go-to jacket, flip flops are year-round foot wear, and that umbrella? It’s probably buried under the reusable grocery bags in the trunk of the car.
It’s been rainy this week–and I’m talking multiple days! It rained Wednesday night and last night, and there are still clouds that just might be holding some more rain hanging around. We can probably count a year’s worth of rainy days on two hands–and this year, rain has been scarce, even for us.
Luckier still, we’re getting much needed rain and it has been coming after we go to bed at night. That has left my afternoons available for those much-needed beach walks. Breathing in saline rich air while feeling the satisfaction of checking off exercise as done, calms my brain and is good for my body. And the bonus: the beach is never boring. The views change constantly, the terrain is varied from tide to tide, and no mask is needed on the wide-open shoreline.
As I headed back toward the car, the towering clouds above the old Encina power plant tower (headed for demolition) caught my eye. I couldn’t quite capture it with my camera held in its usual position, so I turned it to try to capture the height of the clouds.
Maybe we’ll have a bit more weather in store before this storm system leaves. For now, I’ll just enjoy the clouds.
Good grooming is important–even when it is the beach that is being groomed.
During the summer, our local beaches are full pretty much from sunrise to sunset leaving no time for maintenance other than keeping trash emptied and restrooms filled. But during the winter, seeing heavy construction equipment on the sand is not all that unusual.
Bulldozers are used to push sand into big piles, offering protection from the higher tides that accompany stormy weather. And sometimes beaches with “extra” sand are able to share the wealth with other local beaches suffering from a lack of sand.
I’m really not sure exactly what this big piece of equipment is being used for. This is not my usual beach. It’s a few miles north–not far from where I get my hair cut. And with a few extra minutes before my appointment time, it was the perfect micro-vacation getaway. 15 minutes on the beach is always worth it–and the rain held back so I could snap a few photos of the stormy blustery beach on a Wednesday afternoon.