On the November Beach


November is billed as a somber month and for good reason. Today the sky is heavy with gray cloud, the brisk wind is cold, and the weather forecast has not been optimistic, saying that there is a good chance for rain. Even so there is a certain beauty in a November beach.

Predictably, no one is on the beach except for a few raw-cheeked fisherman, but never mind, for the ocean is full of life. Noisy seagulls wheel about and the timid sandpipers hurry about their business. Pelicans in formation brush their bellies to the foaming surf scanning for breakfast, and underneath the waves there are fish. Now, if fish had any sense they would move away from this area full of fishermen and hungry sea birds, but alas, fish have never been known for their brainpower.

Snake-like head rises

            Out of cold, November surf…

            Fishing cormorant.

The wind is against me as I begin my walk, and I enjoy the chill of the fresh sea air. Near me, the sea edges ever closer to my feet as I pause I throw a stranded starfish back to safety. There are mounds of shells on the beach—courtesy of yet another hurricane that has sped up the coast to do damage in the north—but most of them are broken. I find a huge whelk, beautiful except that it has been split in two. I hold it for a moment thinking that some dreams are like this whelk—hopeful and beautiful and yet somehow broken.

The thought is brushed with a sorrow that comes with remembered loss. The loss of friends taken too early by death, the slow ebb of health and vigor with the coming of age—to push away such thoughts is easy, but instead I acknowledge them for a moment understanding that life needs both sunshine and shadow to be complete.

Seawater circles my sneakers and I move hastily away and continue walking. There is something therapeutic about the ocean. The pound of breakers, the cries of the sea birds, and the whistle of the wind make for a calming symphony that gentles the mind. I am settling into that peaceful mental place when a seagull hops into view. It is tugging at something bright.

A fish? As I approach, the gull fluffs his feathers and glares at me, but then thinks better of it and flies off leaving his treasure—a fish-hook made to look like a red fish. When I pick it up, a three-pronged set of hooks imbeds itself deep into my glove. If the bird had swallowed this…

We need to be so careful, I think, as I walk to the nearest trash can to toss the fish hook out of harm’s way. How often do our small, careless actions injure something or someone? On the beach I pick up glittering candy wrappers, bits of bright plastic, silver foil. Detritus that can hurt sea-creatures just as a careless word or action of ours can hurt without intent.

This lethal fish hook

            Is peril to fish or bird…

            So bright, so deadly.

Something crunches underfoot, and I see that I have stepped on a horseshoe crab shell. These creatures have been around for millions of years and yet they still populate this ocean and come finally to rest on the beach where I walk. How wonderful, I think. This fragile shell is proof indeed that the life force has swept through all of recorded time and will flow on into the far future.

The wind has quieted, the waves have gentled. The horizon is like a line of silver limned against the still-dark sky. Knowing that I am a miniscule part of this great wheel of life, I watch and rejoice as the sun bursts through the clouds and fills the world with light.

On November beach

Busy life force has left

So many lessons.

“Window To the Sea” watercolor


About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

8 responses »

  1. Maureen,

    I love visiting the beach in the off-season. It’s like finding a jewel where none have thought to look. Your descriptions were delightful and showed how much we connect with nature and themes present, even when taking a short walk.

  2. I wish you could visit our beach, Linda… it’s so peaceful, even with the fishermen that turn out after September and linger until April (actually, I like the fishermen… but I don’t like their vehicles which dig deep ruts into the sand!). I love the sunsets during the cool seasons, too. The sun seems to really make an effort to give a gorgeous display each night…

  3. Dear Maureen,
    Your words even in prose are very lyrical and smooth-sounding to my ears. You are right. Sometimes a little something we throw out in carelessness in words or actions could do more damage than we ever ventured to believe.

    I wish I was there with you in person. However, your great description enabled me to be by your side.

    Celebrate you!
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    • Thank you, dear Joan! I hope that Sandy didn’t cause you or yours too much grief. Our beach, thankfully, was spared this time. We think ourselves so powerful, but then Nature arrives to show us how foolish we can be…. Thank you, as always, for reading.

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