Writing on the beach
The surf in front of me, just 50 feet away, curls gently into white froth. It crashes, swishes, sighs, then effervesces in iridescent foam bubbles. The wind is from the southwest, from the sea. I feel it on my right collarbone; it dries the sweat from my run. Seagulls cry. Beachcombers in straw hats pick their way through the swash zone, heads down, scanning for shells. I sit at the edge of the tide line, with my butt in dry soft sand and my bare feet on the smooth wet pack. My coffee steams next to me, and dark clouds build in the southwest over the ocean. The sun rises over my left shoulder and pinks the surface of the Atlantic.
Brightly colored houses
Up and down the beach are boxy houses painted in cheerful yellows, turquoises, peaches, seafoam greens — Caribbean colors — all with fresh white trim. They are bright and happy and beachy against the blue morning sky, white clouds, and light sand.
Skimmers fly into the wind
Just above the break point of the waves, three compact white birds with angular, black-rimmed wings fly into the wind. They rise and dip with the wind currents, headed toward the darkening storm. Waves rise under them then fall forward. The skimmers make steady progress down the beach and out of sight.
Sandpipers run from water
Our daughter and I giggle when we see fat sandpipers on their tiny little legs run quickly from incoming ripples, desperate to avoid letting the water touch their feet. It’s as if they don’t realize — despite being sea birds who feed in the wet sand of the swash zone — where they are, and that waves wash in and out where they eat. They’re tiny and hyper. They constantly stick their bills into the sand to nose around for crustaceans and worms, probe, probe, probing. They get lost in it, dashing from spot to spot on their short little legs, then an inch-high wavelet washes towards them, and when it’s a centimeter from touching them, they panic and flee. Their little stick legs are a blur, like cartoon character legs, under the pipers’ fat little bodies.
Shadows on the sand
The morning light is slanted and golden. It makes my seated shadow long on soft, caramel sand. The beach is full of footprints, each with its own shadow from the leading ledge of the indentation. Dark clouds in the distance, billows of grey clouds with ran falling beneath them, cast shadows I can’t see on the ocean beneath them. A cloud has moved over the sun; the breeze is fresh and cool, waves curl and splash, and shadows have disappeared until the sun emerges again.
The Atlantic Ocean
Under a blue sky nearly covered with loose cottonball clouds, the Atlantic Ocean is greenish brown before me. I see two boats far off on the horizon, and cloud towers even farther out. Their tops shine white in the sunlight they catch. The sea is choppy from the breeze, but the waves are small and gentle. From my left shoulder all the way in front of me to my right shoulder, the Atlantic arcs to the horizon, an unfathomable basin of salt and water.
Written from the beach on our vacation to Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, in August of 2020. The featured image is not from the day I wrote; it is from the day after Tropical Storm Isaias blew through and the wind and sea were still wild.