Saturday, December 7, 2013

Beauty At The Beach.

"Wanna go to the beach?"

That's what my fourth-born asked me last weekend. She was home from college for a short break and craving some natural Washington beauty.

Now it's true that Pacific Northwest seashores share a name with their warm-climate counterparts, whose golden sands and warm turquoise waters summon up images of mai tais and refreshing dips in the sweet waves, like this.

But a November visit to our local beach is a whole 'nother thing.

^ The weather up here in Upper Left USA is always on the cool and cloudy side. But this late fall day was nothing short of blustery. Winds whipped through the watery passageway between island and mainland; dark clouds loomed in the sky; choppy waves lapped ominously close to our feet at high tide.

Brrrr. After thirty seconds of contemplating this bone-chilling landscape, I was ready to sprint back to the car and crank the heater to extreme red. Yet my daughter was taking this arctic experience in stride and I was determined to keep her company. So on I trod.

To keep my mind off my chattering teeth, I decided to ignore my greater surroundings and look for smaller details to the scene that might hold my otherwise frozen interest.

^ The tide was crazy high. This pile of rocks, normally well beyond the reach of even the most invasive waves, was almost completely underwater. While I nervously considered how close those frigid waters were to my icy little toes, I also noticed the way that the colors of the wet stones sprang to life, much more vivid that I'd ever imagined them to be. The waves and spray brought out a variety of stripes, flecks and textures that caught my eye and held me spellbound...until a gust of wind snapped me out of my reverie and got me moving down the path.

^ Rocky Northwest beaches are typically littered with beach logs - the ghosts of trees who lost their grip on the land and fell headlong into the waters, stripped of their leaves, branches and bark, and tossed up on distant shores. Most are whittled down to mere logs, but some - like this one - retain the intricate arms of their root systems and appear as natural sculptures along the water's edge. 

Usually, these beauties present a problem to me. It must be said that Ranger likes to work his way around them, tangling his super long leash amongst the tendrils, and lifting his leg here and there in a jaunty fashion. Rather than enjoying the timber art, I'm usually preoccupied with canine damage control. Since my boy did not accompany us on this trip, I gladly enjoyed a few precious moments of dog-pee-free contemplation.

^ Late autumn leaves caught in the drifts of beach grass. Soon they will all be blown away.

^ Several other families were braving the elements with us. Forget about the sunscreen and sand pails - these beach-going children bundled up in multiple layers of fleece and down, and fought valiantly to keep from being blown away, too.

^ A sweet little red rock, nestled into the crack of a decaying beach log, caught my eye. As I took in her cheerful color and clever hiding place, I noticed something else. Raindrops. Oi.

^ Yes, to add insult to injury, it was now officially raining. Just a light sprinkle, mind you, but still. After a quick consultation, my daughter and I decided to loop down the path at the other end of the beach, and then run for cover. As we struck out with determination toward our destination, I noticed these ruffly leaves with striking variegated color.In all my many trips to this beach, I had never noticed them before. Maybe the cold was accentuating my powers of observation.

^ Along the walkway, I turned back to see a sad sight: the abandoned posts for the pier. In late summer, the sections of dock are removed and stored for the winter - only these brave soldiers stand at attention through the winter, and I feel sorry for them. 

^ From that same place, I turned to greet an old friend. The Mukilteo Lighthouse, cozy under its red roof and glowing cheerfully from its cupola. A heart-warming sight indeed.

 ^ And just a few steps farther, at the end of our trail, we caught sight of the ferry dock. Perfect timing - the Cathlamet was just pulling out, and we scrambled out on the rocks to watch her sail.

After a dignified send-off, we tucked our chins into our collars, faced the wind, and broke for the car. I paused just long enough to snap a shoe selfie.

Once inside the vastly more comfortable environment of the cold car, we shook off our raindrops, started the engine, and sorted through our camera rolls as the car heated up. Despite the wicked weather, we found plenty of beauty at the beach.

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