Monday, February 15, 2010

In like a lamb and out like a rather indifferent lion: the beach in winter

After a completely relaxing and restorative weekend with one last day stretching out before us to savor, Rodney and I packed up the backpack and two of the dogs for a walk on the beach. It was a perfect day for late winter. The wind was out of the southwest, the temperatures in the mid-60s and an afternoon low tide. This is what it looked like when we got there. For those of us who love walking in our beloved Guana it was a perfect prescription for late winter/early spring: not too cold, bright blue skies and just the right music of the spheres resulting a lower-than-average low tide.

The sun was warm on our faces, so warm I'll probably go to work tomorrow with a tell-tale pink look, despite the sunscreen. And it was a lovely walk, the dogs setting their own pace part of the time; me, looking for shark teeth and other bits of fossils, setting the pace at other times. Rodney sets his own pace, walking with his metal detector. The dogs are generally pretty indulgent about the pace, slowing down to human speed when they'd rather be allowed to race after pelicans or accelerate toward lunch when we get close enough. But they do know when it's time for lunch and they're pretty definite about their preference to have it. (This spot is at the beach monument of which I've written before.)I don't know what sensory everyday canine miracle enables dogs to know things like "we are now within 15 feet of that place we eat lunch when we come to this part of the beach" (is it smell? is it memory? is it one of them saying to the other, "Dude, this is place we ate lunch last time...remember how we made those sad faces and got them to feed us half the sandwich?") but certainly there is such a miracle. I have thoughts about this, but they are a tale for another day, my dears, so let me shut up and wander on.

The monument's flag indicated a brisk and steady wind from the south-southwest. Or at least it did at lunchtime. The face of the beach changes with every tide, and if you go often to the same spot you see this with every visit. Those who are lucky enough to live at the beach and wise enough to pay attention are able to seee the changes in real time. Most of the time, for us, the observation of the changes - the shifting sand that reveals fossilized riches in one fall and obscures them again with 18 inches of sugary power with the rising of another - usually happens from one weekend to the next. The high-tide line changes, the bluffs shift, sometimes by 3 or 4 feet, the color of the water is never the same. Today, though, the change was visible within a few short hours as the wind changed and the clouds began to build.

Within a couple of hours, the changes ceased to be subtle. The warmth of that southerly touch to the wind disappeared when the wind shifted to come straight from the west. The clouds thickened and began to darken in color and the temperature dropped enough to make me glad I'd worn a sweater. The water began to reflect the shadows of the clouds, and I started to think about the hat and scarf I'd tucked into the backpack. And Meg, whose fur is fine and smooth, without much of the undercoat some dogs have, began to cry every now and then: I want to go home. And this is what the beach looked like when we left. As we drove home, Rodney checked the weather. The forecast is for bright, shiny beautiful blue days, those days I often tell you about, those days which in northeastern Florida seem to occur between October and April. They are days of almost indescribable clarity and sharpness in the very air. Such days can come with a price exacted by the thermometer. They are often no warmer than the 40s or 50s under the brilliant blue sky but freezing nights that can cost some of us plants and fruit trees, and others their crops for the season. But for this evening, we're counting our blessings, happy that a perfect weekend finished with a perfect day, and that we're able to share it with you.
Coming this week: a soup recipe of some kind. I started with a potato and leek soup I learned from Julia Child and have taken it to all kinds of interesting places. It's so much easier than I thought it would be. You probably already have the most divine cold weather soup recipe in the world and if you want to share it, I'd love to put it here and of course give credit where credit is due.

Tonight's captions and credits follow.
Second photo, left to right: Rodney, Tyson (digging up something almost-certainly smelly), and Meg
Copy editing: Dylan
A generous willingness not to be annoyed that he had to stay home: Calvin

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