Tides and colder weather this season have done a good job of making morning walks a sometime activity. Thinking back to last December I remember nothing about conditions that made getting out on the beach every morning difficult. The arrival of winter this year has had a different effect on the tide and its interaction with the beach, making what was last year’s solid footing into a December ’11 mushy mess. Something about the look of the beach last Wednesday encouraged a walk, but it was one that quickly turned into a plodding drag through a pudding bowl of sand in a hard and cold wind. It was a long three miles of dodging surf and glistening wrack, wet and tangled with seashells. The deceptive part is always the direction of the wind, and what is a helpful boost in one direction becomes a delaying force the other. The combination of cold and unstable footing eventually got me home wheezing with long dormant asthma.
But there is another side. While those winds and tides enforce their changes upon the beach and sand, and while the encroaching cold brings on shivers and long sleeves, what a sky and what an ocean fill out the rest of the picture! I have taken to eating breakfast on the patio for the pleasure of observing the water and sky in early morning. Apart from the obvious there are forces unseen that now pass their brush and palette across sky and water, leaving behind a canvas fresh with the textures of brand new blues, fresher greens and chilly grays, all fluffed by overhanging clouds of winter white.
The best of this season for some oceanfront dwellers is the absence of people, the emptiness and barren aspect of a beach in winter, when even the faraway silhouette of another is almost nettling. These December mornings I sit with breakfast in the splendor of cold sunlight, the island adirondack chair offering a throne-like vista of empty sea and untrammeled beach, and I mumble a silent thanks for the distance of everything but sky, ocean, sand and my own thoughts.