The Beach in Winter
I return to the beach in winter.
The tide is high, and driftwood has been tossed casually onto the sloped cliffs. Algae foam slides up the sand, is caught by the wind and blown, rolling, to the east. A shoal of black basalt rises from the sand. The waves return to the ocean through rivulets cut in stone. Dark clouds sail through the sky like ships, their hulls punctuated with blue.
In summer there’s deep sand, the black stone buried, the waves friendly and green, the sky wide and shining. The sand is dotted with a mosaic of bright towels. The seals pop up their glossy heads, watching the strange happenings on shore.
Sometimes we think we have found truth, but we have only found the beach in winter. We are tempted to say, “This beach has a vein of black stone that rises up from the sand,” but in the spring it’s not quite true, and in the summer not true at all. There are truths that cannot be discovered in one afternoon, there are truths that require a season’s observance, a year’s reflection to be understood.
The tides change with the moon, the sand rises and falls with the seasons, the birds migrate, the cliffs recede with the erosion of decades. These things cannot be determined in a moment, cannot be observed in an afternoon, cannot be understood in a week’s careful study.
This is to say nothing of the volcanic growth of islands, the grinding shift of continental plates, the meticulous motion of glaciers, or the slow, careful metamorphoses of the heart.