Cold this morning, land and seascape all but empty. Wind skates across a flattened beach raising phantoms of sand that shift and swirl in a wind-driven blanket of powdery white. Involved in their secret motives, the birds, unlike last week, this time all face due north. The thought comes to mind that it is the wind that determines their orientation flocked there at the water’s edge. Facing into the wind prevents the ruffling of feathers.
Odd to see so few people on a morning bright with sun. The two men surf fishing in the same spot every morning are today nowhere in sight. Off in the distance two or three small silhouettes are visible, nothing at all to the north. The chill of what is October’s last blow is perhaps the reason for all this sparkling space empty of people. Empty too, of seaweed and the occasional blemish of washed up bottles or stray plastic. This time the sand is flat and clean, clear of all but shells and the restless skitter of Ruddy turnstones digging for breakfast.
For the distance of a mile and a half I walk south, like the gulls, head on into the wind, waiting for the eye of white sun free of clouds to warm my sleeveless arms. I’m grateful that the hard flatness of sand allows a faster pace, a pace that I know will soon enough send a flush of warmth down my arms.
And so it happens. I slip into automatic steps uncounted and beyond awareness, thoughts flying away over the tumbling waves and deep blue water. Almost by accident I look to the right some time later and see the familiar landmark, a weathered brown gazebo set on top of dunes half-shrouded in sea oats. I am warm again and turning back feel the south wind pushing now at my back.
It surprises me that even now the long stretch of hard white is clear of figures for as far as I can see. Friday usually brings a few more people to this paradise of blue and white, but I can only guess that they are still indoors, leaving me to enjoy in solitude this blessing of autumn morning on the outer edge of Florida. I pass a man riding south on a bicycle, not realizing it is my neighbor, Dietrich. Too late now to wave a hello, but then, like me he is focused on other things, wondering perhaps at the absence of pelicans. Just as well, since I am one who lacks the skills of conversation at this early hour on the beach.
Almost unaware of the last hour’s hard walking, I am back at the familiar grouping of palm trees that spell home. I notice how the wind has completely re-drawn in one hour the lines and ripples of sand at my starting point. The peculiar beauty of that earlier sandy design has been blown away, leaving me and my camera to make something of nothing.
The moral, if there is one is this: A morning on the beach in late October is worth a week in August.