Tuesday is a day when only the most devoted venture out to the windy cold interface where ocean meets land. Looking north and south, the beach is an empty stretch, deserted by even the birds. One or two gulls, a small scatter of ruddy turnstones, only the hungriest among their flocks have come to the water’s edge. Whether it is the cold or otherwise, the pelicans are nowhere in sight. With the sun at its highest pitch, the temperature climbs a feeble degree or two, but the wind chill is doing its part and 38° F becomes 34°. Weathermen describe cold fronts and blasts of wind from Canada, advising locals to either bring plants indoors or wrap them before nightfall with its promise of 29°.
For the first time in memory I prepare for a walk on the beach with three layers and a wooly scarf tied snuggly around the neck. And that does the trick, but then why had I not considered gloves before leaving home? Barely a minute of southerly walking and fingers start to stiffen with cold. Fortunately, sleeves stretch enough to cover all but the fingertips, but do little for the icy blow in my face, sure to bring an ache over any distance.
The cold loneliness of the beach is a welcome sight after the holidays, when weather was warmer and attracted crowds with fireworks and leave-behind litter. Daily trash wagons do a good job there, but can’t be expected to stop for the hundreds of expended bottle rockets and dead flying spinners, or the scrap of countless exploded dragon tails. Here and there along the beach are small bits of colored paper that served as either wrapping or stuffing for the pink and green aerial displays that lit up the nighttime sand and surf last weekend.
Over the course of two miles I pass not another person and see none in the distance north or south. The sand is wrinkled by no other footprints but my own, a solitary walker passing among seashells, dead crabs and a clump or two of tangled wrack. Many would call this the best time, perhaps wishing for less aching cold, but relishing the undisturbed elements weaving their patterns.
Here is one large crab that seems to have been caught in the wind driven sand and molded into a deadly bas-relief. The gradation of color on its shell is one more marvel of the ocean come to land. Two eyes like shiny black BBs poke from the serrated edge of curved shell and for a moment suggest the crab is still alive. But the cracked shell tells another story.
There is another crab, one long dead and diminished by the scavenging of other life forms, but in some way still beautiful with its intricacy of stilled legs and claws.
The next encounter is with a third crab, this one aloof in its unlovely and threatening stance, a dull shape and color scheme that describes an ugly duckling of the crab world. The threat is impotent since it is one more dead crab having breathed its last in a ready-to-strike pose.
Back in the warmth of home, the outside cold has done its work and I’m left to deal with an ache that thrums inside my windblown head. However, that will pass and leave no regrets about my hour with the cold wind and dead crabs.