Bird in Hand

Living less than a quarter mile from the ocean and my own beach access, it took a number of years before I thought to visit the small oceanside park on the coastal road about two miles south of my house, even though I pass it each time I drive to or from the bridge to the mainland. And then, one recent and still dark summer morning, upon completing my weekday exercise regimen early, it occurred to me to head over to the park to cool down in the surf there for a change and to check things out in general and maybe take some photos.

Parking in the small lot on the west side of the road, I walked across to the wooden walkway and followed it east. I soon realized though that I’d taken a wrong turn and should have veered north at a fork I had passed earlier. The walkway I was on ended at a small observation point sheltered from the elements by a weathered gazebo with a built-in bench. The route I had wanted to take was to my left, its white wooden railing rising above the tall grass before it and its steps down to the sea visible when I crouched and peered through the foliage just so.

I had meant to return to the walkway’s fork posthaste but then decided to first take advantage of my current location, so I made my way to the gazebo and sat on the bench. The sea was calm that day, the surf next to nonexistent, and there was a thin haze that brought a soft, dreamy feel to the watery world laid out before me. The sky was mist-softened as well and painted with a rosy wash nearest the sea, morphing gradually to a subtle yellow-tinged cream closer to heaven. When a line of seagulls flew by heading south just a foot or two above the water, I snapped two or three photos in quick succession. Then I lay the camera down next to me and relied on my eyes instead to capture a more panoramic scene than possible with the lens I had brought. I soon slipped into a soothing meditative state. After a short (or maybe a long) while, the sun appeared on the horizon like a god incarnate, blessing me with its celestial early morning presence. I became aware of my inextricable relationship to the sea, and to the sky, and to the sun, and to the universe.

Before the sun completely separated itself from the horizon, the memory of my original mission went off inside me like an alarm, filling me with an adrenalin rush and causing me to stand abruptly, collect my camera, and turn to retrace my steps to the fork. However, upon returning to a calmer state of mind and realizing that the mist would soon dissipate in the sun’s heat and that the dreamy colors would wash out in the brightening light, I chose instead to continue walking west past the turn, all the way back to the parking lot and my car for the short drive home.