Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Misty Evening, by the Ocean

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky.” Nothing lonely about Newcomb Hollow yesterday around six-thirty, when Sven and I went down to see the effects of Danny, which had combined with two low pressure systems to form a “hybrid storm.” The surf pounded the shore, closing in on high tide, and the current angled the waves north so they crashed almost out of view. Tourists and natives alike, out for an erosion-check, found it impossible to leave. There was something mesmerizing about the way the angry ocean merged with the sky. No horizon, just ominous fog. Huge swells of brownish-gray water rolled in, one after the other. Some spectators peered out from behind the parking lot fence. Another group had taken up position right at the water’s edge. There was even a man who held a black umbrella, fitting for a day most of us had spent in front of the television, watching black umbrellas arrive at the Mission Hill Basilica, then watching them depart an hour later. Mist coated the beach, the sand, the pavement, everything! In no time cold droplets had penetrated my fleece. “Amazing how a beach can be so different, “ said Sven. The lifeguards had hauled their chair onto the pavement, and someone had used the underside for a whimsical drawing. We saw quite a few people out with dogs. One hopeful man carried a fishing pole, although he did not use it, put off by the intimidating waves, no doubt. Then, to our surprise, our cottage guests appeared out of the mist. “I love this weather,” said Cassandra. Sven began to discuss architecture with her husband Robert, an architect, while nine-year-old Cory ran up and down in front of us, as if drawn to the sea, like a boomerang. Sometimes he danced so close to the waves that it made my heart pound. I asked him about the erosion, so he zipped back down to the edge to check before I could yell that he shouldn’t go too close.
Ruth, from the post office, and Ginny, from the library board, arrived about then. Ruth set off to walk her lab but Ginny stayed to chat. “One foot erosion,” Cory reported. “But it’s, like, three feet further down the beach.” Ginny told us parts of Wellfleet had lost power. “Wind gusts even knocked over the porta-potties at Mayo Beach. Unless it was a rogue element,” she added with half a smile, but none of us felt much like laughter. The weather fit our moods as the realization sank in that we had really lost Ted Kennedy, a reality only a funeral can make clear. Back at the fence, a woman strode triumphantly up the dune as if she had won the lottery and was eager to turn in her ticket. Over one shoulder, she carried a stray buoy, a reminder of a Wellfleet beach, on a somber day.