Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Praise of Cloudy Days

On a day like today, when the sky clouds up and a light drizzle begins to fall, our guests look despondent over breakfast, and a bit angry, as if possible recriminations against nature are running through their head. I point out walking on a beach, in non-sunny weather, can be enjoyable, too. But they go into town to shop, or to the pond instead. Apparently most tourists in Wellfleet agree with our guests because when Sven and I drove to LeCount Hollow at 4 pm yesterday afternoon, the parking lot was almost empty, only a dozen cars or so. I had expected the beach to be deserted but folks, who had rented cottages nearby and walked in, frolicked at the edge of the ocean. It was fun to watch reactions to the waves, which thundered against the shore, sending chilly spray in all directions.

“Suddenly it's become very cold!” Sven said as we descended the ramp.

Indeed, the air on the beach hit us in spurts, as if someone had deregulating that great air-conditioning system in the sky. Cold, hot, cold, hot.

“Yes. It does feel like walking away from a hot kiln, then stepping out the door into a snowstorm,” I replied and donned my windbreaker.

We don’t usually go at high tide, but we should. How thrilling the crashing waves! Even Sven was surprised by a renegade wave that rode all the way up the beach to the foot of the dune. We didn't go far, fearing the advancing tide. When the ocean roars, one needs to recognize it as a formidable enemy.

Some teenagers had built a boat in the sand. Their skipper stood half-buried, as if to challenge the mighty Atlantic. I watched their glee as the waves split into two streams at the bow and encircled the sand boat. There were budding photographers on the beach, too. One girl stalked a seagull. Parents photographed their kids, fascinated by the angry waves. Mothers hovered, ready to intervene, although I don’t know how exactly. Shout? Grab a son or daughter out of harm’s way? Dive into the water? There was no lifeguard on duty, so this would have been the option.

A beach never looks exactly the same. The landscape shifts with recent erosion. Today the power of the ocean was obvious. A ridge had formed above where the waves were breaking. (These intrepid kids had built a sand castle there before the tide had begun to rise.)

Sunny days are nice but they do not bring much variety. On cloudy days, not only does the color of the water change according to what's going on in the sky, but sometimes the surface will be smooth, sometimes riddled with waves if there's a storm at sea. Visiting an Atlantic ocean beach will always be an adventure. And, therein lies the ultimate charm …

We have regular guests from Washington, D.C., who swear by cloudy days. They get so much heat and sun at home that they really enjoy the opposite while on vacation. What is your favorite type of beach weather? Do you like to walk on the beach when it's cloudy or only go if the sun is out?