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…
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.