Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cold Sculpture

Not long after climbing out of bed this morning a new sound muscles its way through the walls. It is the grind and chomp of big machines chewing up the parking lot 500 feet away. There is promise of a new parking lot by the end of this week, a Christmas gift of shiny new surfaces with newly painted lines and numbers. Cold work for the Santas riding those machines, as temperatures continue to slide around between 25 and 39° here on the edge of the water. Cold, though no one can say it’s not beautiful. The view from this hand hammered work table under my elbows is scintillating, as it normally is when the morning light is strong and clear.

But the cold. Following my recently changed custom of exercising later, about an hour after lunch I spend some time walking on the beach. No other person in sight, north or south for a distance of about five miles. Even the bird life is sparse and over the course of miles, the most seen are maybe ten or twelve birds. By now the unexpected has become what could be called the ‘expected unexpected,’ a matter of almost knowing that something along the sandy path will surprise me in an unforeseeable or unpredictable way.

Not long into my windy ramble I come across a bird in the familiar pose of sleep or rest, legs tucked under, breast down on the sand. I think it odd that the bird doesn’t spring up and either fly or scamper away at my approach. But then, how does a frozen bird fly away? Soon after I begin to notice catfish, first one, then another and soon a dozen dead or dying at surf’s edge. A thought comes that maybe for this particular fish the coldness of the water triggered some ancient instinct, telling them to seek warmer, shallower water warmed by sunlight. That might lead to the fish being washed onto dry sand by the surf. Whatever the cause, I notice over a dozen catfish washed up, and only one or two of those carcasses providing a meal for the scant birds on this cold day. What would normally be a feast for the gathered birds is now too much for those remaining.

New to me is the tiredness that comes sooner from walking any distance on a cold beach. The sweater, jacket and hood are fine, but the unceasing wind is a ball and chain on the legs. The press against such wind is wearing, but all around me the wind creates what looks like beautiful bas reliefs in the sand, shapes that resemble powdery temporary sculptures shifting and reshaping themselves by the hour. They are arresting designs perhaps special to this time of year when the wind gusts and swirls in a singular way. Though cold and beginning to drag, the sight of these natural designs adds something extra to this December walk.


  1. Another richly observed peek at nature, at what is around and underfoot. So many of us--concerned with the daily tasks of getting here and there--fail to notice the majesty around us, sometimes within an arm's length or even through the window of the car as we come and go.

  2. What beautiful sculptures in the sand. I've noticed these also and makes one hesitant to walk on them and disturb their beauty. You have recorded in your blogs continued changes of God's handiwork along the ocean's edge and I enjoy so much your "special" description that makes me appreciate it even more.


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America