It rained nearly all day. Good. I was the only one on the beach, and I’ve never seen it look like this before. This is about half an hour before sunset. It really was my beach. All the stones were wet, glistening, glowing, gathering what light was left of the day. The colors are so much more intense when they are wet.
It was cold enough that I wore a wool hat covering my ears, and my “winter” coat, and a scarf and gloves and rain boots to boot! My coat was much heavier when I returned from my walk, heavy with the drizzle and cold. It was wonderful to be the only one out there. It is forecast to rain all day tomorrow too. A small dent in our drought. I hope my coat is dry by tomorrow.
It rained today. And will rain for the next two days. Parched California needs it. But the sun was out at low tide this afternoon — or at least it tried to come out. The skitterers must have been discussing it. They don’t let us get this close, but I can crop with my camera, so here they are, looking almost like stones tossed on the beach.
When the pelicans swarm overhead, I have to stop and look. Even a pair of gulls will get my attention. I am so much more attuned to my senses on the beach. It will be nice when it is warmer and I can go barefoot. People do, even now, surfing, walking, splashing, wading; but I get too cold. In a few months it will be warmer!
It is amazing to me that something as delicate as a feather survives the onslaught of the waves. I see feathers on the beach all the time, sometimes these slight white ones, other times larger, longer gray/black/brown sturdier ones. Do the birds miss them? Are they molted or loosened or are they from dead birds? Where do they go? Are they eventually washed out to sea or perhaps buried in the sand?
My walks leave me with unanswered questions and sometimes a lack of urgency in answering them. Just asking them makes me feel more aware.
I had my hair cut today, too short, and think my hair is like feathers. Its wispy bits flutter down over the protective cape, onto the floor, to be swept away as if nothing, but our hair and our feathers are like our names, so integrally tied up in who we are and how we present to the world. I’ve been wearing hats lately, as I’m losing my hair to an unusual form of alopecia. I’m trying not to think of it as losing myself; my hair is not me any more than my skin is me, or my fingernails, or my (also thinning) eyelashes. But hair loss is much more aesthetically acceptable in men than in women; I doubt birds feel the loss of their feathers as much as women feel the loss of their hair. And all the classical, biblical, mythical references to hair indicate that this is an ancient association of hair with beauty, youth, strength.
Very low tides provide very broad vistas. This was so expansive today, and warm enough that when the sun was at my back, I could feel its heat on my neck. It was only in the mid-60s, but the high sun and the sand and the water concentrate the warmth.
So, how can I concentrate my effort? Sometimes it seems that all I’ve learned has cracked into fragments, shattered into pieces that I have to gingerly gather together into new wholes. Some simple art processes have become more difficult. I keep hoping I’m just out of practice; my art-making has been far less consistent in production and focus these last few California years. I want to gently herd my wandering skills again, create with new purpose: my vision hasn’t changed, at least not my conceptual vision — but my implementation forces seem rusty, creaky, unreliable. I measured twice, and cut once: wrong! How could that be? OK, I’ll set up a table for more room, because working in cramped quarters means not taking care of your materials; either get more space or work smaller! And get more light! Please remember not to hurry. Try it again tomorrow, differently.
How is it I’m still telling myself these basic things?
I look at these and just want to see more. How are these stunning drawings made? I watch the movement of the waves and see the water pulling the sand, but these dramatic ones don’t seem to happen when I’m watching.
We walked for about an hour around noon. The weather has been consistent with highs in the mid 60s, but at noon it is so much warmer than it is during the late afternoon! I would be happy in shorts and a tee shirt at noon, but I need a jacket and jeans near sunset. The temperature is only a few degrees lower later in the day, so it must be the reflected sun on the sand and lack of mid-day cloud cover that makes it so much warmer at noon.
We didn’t see our ground squirrel. He must sleep mid-day. The pelicans were doing their lovely V-formations, sweeping back and forth over the beach; the godwits and gulls were gathering as usual; and we partook of clean air and long vistas and the sounds of splash with the same joy. I hope I never tire of it.
Well, not that shy, perhaps. The brilliant, cheerful blooms are lovely, lining the path on our walk down to the stairway that leads to the beach. We went earlier than usual today because we had friends coming for an open house.
I was shy a long time ago. Not that shy, perhaps? I just thought I was shy. I didn’t like to talk to people I didn’t already know — in a store, on the phone, at a party. I think it was a general reflection of insecurity with the unknown rather than true shyness. The poppy knows better, opening itself to the sunshine, and later keeping to itself, all cosy-like, when it gets cool and dark. Taking care of itself when it needs to and turning its face to the world in innocent curiosity.
Several friends at the party said I looked younger and happier in our new house, our new neighborhood, our new proximity to the beach. Yes, yes, and yes!
Oh my. The sky was the star of the show today. I was tuning in to the sounds of the waves: hearing the brief near-silences, the rushes, the rumbles, the full-frontal attacks, the recessions. But visually, it was all about the sky.
Doesn’t that look deliciously ambiguous? It seems it could have been taken from an airplane, of the ocean below, seen through clouds. But I was looking UP at the sky, shortly before sunset, and there it was: this mystery of endless spaces and darkness and blueness and fluffy whiteness.
I love ambiguity in art and marvel at it in words, although it can be infuriating when it occurs in directions or explanations. “Left on Oak” — does that mean take a left onto Oak Street or go left (to somewhere unstated) once you have entered Oak Street? Ah well. I use “onto” to disambiguate my direction-giving, and I also try to use landmarks, compass directions, and right-left whenever possible. Who knows what will be helpful? Besides, it’s good for me to practice being aware of the compass directions, a skill I began to improve when we got a car with a built-in compass many years ago. Girl Scouts didn’t seem to do it…
Going about their business. A typical day in Carlsbad. A typical scene on the beach. Saw two ground squirrels on the cliffs; we think we can identify their burrow entrances. Several lizardy gecko creatures out sunning and suddenly zipping about. The pelicans zooming not too far overhead in their formations, back and forth. The sandpipers skittering, the gulls crying. The surfers looking awkward or graceful. The kids scampering and frolicking. The sandcastles melting in the waves. The stones and shells in abundance.
We tried to estimate how many stones there are on our stretch of beach. Millions. Maybe billions. There were over 100 in a square foot, and there are lots of areas — yards and yards and yards — where there are piles, heaps, waves of stones, a foot or more deep. Carlsbad has seven miles of beach. Unimaginable numbers of stones. Then multiply by trillions for grains of sand. All beautiful! We are so fortunate.
As I think about where my art journey will go next, I marvel at the variety of marks I see on the beach. This looks a bit like frosting, swirled with a wide spatula, spread in celebration and invention.
So how can my work celebrate life? How can it define a moment or an emotion or a glimpse of something otherwise hidden? How can it be true and authentic, yet not loudly selfish? What shall it look like, how shall it feel to the touch, what could it present to the eye and mind, how shall I make it?
Making gives life meaning for me. Making, transforming, presenting. Preparing food is so direct and immediate; making art is so abstract (even “representational” art is abstract: the painting is not the object as Magritte so dryly told us!) We are having a party at our home this weekend. That will be collaborative performance art, guests included. The ocean makes art every moment of every day. Does it know its own destiny?
I didn’t go to the beach today. I volunteered at the textile museum, then we went to Balboa Park, then to dinner with friends, then to the photography club critique meeting.
Several lovely things happened. Perhaps some compensation for missing my beach walk?
When I arrived at the museum, the director told me that one of the artists (in the group I’m showing with) was giving a talk in the gallery to her students, and that I should go in and talk to them about my piece. I did, waiting at the back until the teacher noticed me and invited me to speak. That was really nice — of both the director and the teacher. It is so seldom artists get to talk about their work and so satisfying to do so!
Later, on the way to the meeting, we stopped at the Natural History museum to ask if there were somewhere open to get a hot drink. The head of volunteers heard us asking, and invited us to make coffee in the volunteers’ break room. She showed us the coffee pot, got out the coffee and also the half-and-half from the fridge, pointed to the cups, and left us to it. Now, we don’t even belong to the Natural History museum. I had never been inside it. I was charmed by her friendly generosity. Who says Californians aren’t friendly? I left a thank-you note on her whiteboard.
A wonderful day. And I can’t wait to go to the beach tomorrow.
So doesn’t it look like an Idaho? A skinny one, perhaps, but still. The stones on and near the beach continue to amaze me with their variety and beauty. And some of them are just weird.
The most gorgeous thing today was the formation of 22 (!) pelicans flying in various configurations. First they were in a straight line; then they broke into a V; then they dipped and circled; then they re-formed their straight line. 22 of them! They were intercepted, nearly, by a group of three. That’s unusual. They seem almost always to fly in even numbers. Was the fourth one asleep? Eating? Ill? Guarding the nest? In “time out?!” I did notice, though, that they took turns flapping their wings: first the lead bird flapped and then resumed soaring/floating; then the second one; then the third one. Is it a rule? Do they discuss it first? I’ve never seen them switch places, but do they? Do they vote?
It’s hard to decide where to look while I walk: up at the sky and birds, down at the rocks and kelp and shells, out at the water and waves, or back toward the cliffs. So I do all four, in turn. I was mesmerized by the pelicans, so I did not take their photo. That’s ok.
I keep thinking I won’t have any “new” or “interesting” photos for this blog. And then this turns up. It’s the foam. But I’ve never seen it look like this before. (I don’t modify these photos, by the way, except an occasional crop.) The light was making these bubbles reflect these colors — from where, I don’t know. Jewels. It wasn’t sunset; it was mid-afternoon. There was no rainbow. It was mostly cloudy and windy enough and bigger surf than usual.
The surf was “tall” enough that it hid the horizon, at least from the vantage point of the beach. I wanted to use one of those photos, too, because the white waves nearly met the white sky and presented a plane of varying whites down to the flat of the blue-gray water ahead of the waves. If you follow that? OK, here’s another photo:
An added bonus was seeing our next-door neighbors sitting on the beach. It’s Presidents’ Day and there were more people than usual out even though it was gray and cool and windy. We went back to get warmer jackets and hats after just a few steps down the block; as soon as we faced the water, the wind picked up. I love it. Obviously.
There are gull tracks, and then there’s this…well, whatever it is…in the shape of a strange bird. Two avian references. The seaweed arranges itself so beautifully that it is hard to remember that it is random.
We spent a long time on the beach today, walking and looking and taking pictures, and the sun set with the teensiest of green flashes, and then it got so chilly that my ears hurt. Ear muffs?
It smelled wonderfully fresh today. There is no way to convey that clean and salty and sweet briny crispness with words or photos. I can’t attach a scent vial to this post. Maybe someday (replicators, anyone?!)
A 7-year-old boy with brilliant orange hair (giving me another moment of hair envy) explained to me that a mud pie looked solid but was really liquid. A non-Newtonian liquid, I told him, likening it to ketchup. Hm…quite something for a non-scientist to try to explain to a second-grader. But he was loving the beach for sure, his joy bursting from him in non-stop chatter and movement!
I wasn’t in town, I wasn’t walking on the beach, I wasn’t seeing my ocean, except for snatches framed by the Golden Gate Bridge. I did see botanical gardens, and they were lovely. But this is an ocean blog. So here is today’s ocean photo:
So, what is it? A fractional part of something, a kelp root, quite desiccated? It is so very fibrous, like a knob of ginger stuffed with dried noodles, twisted and scarred and tough and delicate. I think it is stunningly gorgeous. It is perhaps eight inches long, and it also resembles a branch with growth rings on the outside, and little freckles and hairs.
This was apparently washed up, drying at low tide, tangled into the mounds of stones near the cliff edges. Or was it fallen, a part of some other root structure from above?
I belong to a textile/fiber group of artists. Three of them make basket-like sculptures. This twisted structure would be a great inspiration to them, I should think. Nature leads the way.
The light just before sunset is so soft and clear. This kelp with its wave drawings draws me in. Yes.
The sky was glorious tonight too but this kelp stole the show. It is a winner in the shore olympics today.
I won’t be walking on the beach the next few days. Don’t know how that will feel. Don’t know if I will write here. And don’t know how that will feel either. I’m almost afraid. These rhythms have become my rhythms. Will I be able to take them with me? And if I can’t? Am I in some non-place, some non-space? Out of time? Without time? What would be within time? Enough!
We went to the Meditation Garden today. It is one of my favorite places in the area. It is cultivated, it is planned, it is gorgeous, it is natural, it is unnatural. The desert meets the sea; our hands meet the earth. There must be hundreds of kinds of plants, from ferns to cactus to daisies to pines. There are carp and mini-waterfalls, benches and paths. There are steps and gravel, sun and shade. There are people meditating (some seem a bit self-conscious), drawing, reading, photographing, and, yes, chatting a bit too loudly and exuberantly, but that’s ok with me. There are security guards (weird) and old people and young people and lovers and tourists and students. All lovely.
We walked on the beach, too, and saw the skitterers and a godwit. My phone camera isn’t good enough to take a really clear picture of them, though. We collected more amazing stones, focussing on those with interesting inclusions. The inclusions seem like poetry inserted into prose. They are a surprise, and exclamation point, perhaps even a chuckle. How did they get there? What process did they interrupt, and for how long? I wish I remembered more of the geology I studied 47 years ago!
We sat out on the patio for coffee and pastry this afternoon. The sun was warmer than it has been for days. We soaked it up. All good.
Although I walked on the beach today, this photo from the Safari Park yesterday kept beckoning me. I loved this unlikely tree and here it is for you. It may be a type of acacia.
The beach was narrow today at high tide. After yesterday’s rain, the skies were clear and the horizon distinct — until sunset. Suddenly, clouds seemed to appear and obscure the sun’s descent. It was crispy cool but fairly still, so the sun and our walk warmed us into removing our jackets. The sun is setting closer and closer to the time I want to be preparing dinner. I’ll have to get things ready ahead or push dinner later. I don’t mind moving our rituals and mealtimes; accommodating our walks and adjusting our schedules is one more way to stay connected to what is outside our walls.
I saw the ocean today, but didn’t walk on the beach. I see the water and think about the water every day. I had wanted to use this photo another day so here it is today. I love the contrast of textures and colors. I love that the foam is etherial and changing and will disappear. It seems to be bathing the stones, as if it were soap bubbles. The next wave may be the rinse cycle!
We went to the Safari Park. We fed acacia leaves to the giraffes. We saw gazelles and deer and rhinoceros and a camel and some wild horses and sheep and condors and owls and flamingos and…it was cold (=cool) and breezy and even drizzled on us. Many of the animals we saw are endangered species. Rhinos are hunted for their horns, which have been used medicinally for centuries. Turns out they are the same substance as fingernails and hair, and have no proven healing components. Sigh.
I wore a hat and scarf and gloves and a jacket and sweater and pulled on my turtleneck as an insulating layer for the second time since we moved here. It felt like an adventure to be that cold. Hah! The midwest was in single digits with snow. Our visitor escaped at just the right time, leaving a foot of new snow behind. We all had a grand time.
It was our son’s 21st birthday, glorious day in so many ways. It would have been wonderful to have shared this day with him. He is there, we are here. Perhaps he will come with us to feed acacia leaves to the giraffes next time. He, too, will laugh with pleasure!
I’ve mostly focused on the waves and their effects, on the sky, the sand, the birds. People leave their marks in many ways, too. Footprints, bicycle tracks, lifeguard vehicle tracks, marks from dragged sticks, sand castles, abandoned sand toys…and lovely small monuments like this one. Simple and elegant. The dramatic lighting just before sunset magnifies the edges, the textures, the colors.
We were with our friend and noticing the many colors of the pebbles, the smoothed shapes, the varied sizes, the inclusions, the spots, the ones half-buried in the sand, marveling at their age, their shininess when wet, their softer-looking matte surfaces when dry.
A pile of stones. A small pile of stones. A small mark, I was here.
This is the first time I’ve seen a sun dog. It is to the left of the sun, in the center left side of the photo. Are the skies over the ocean different from all other skies? (That sounds like a good Passover seder question!) The ocean seems to magnify these spectacular skies as well as reflect them. Maybe everything seems bigger at the ocean. I feel both bigger and smaller. Bigger inside, smaller outside. That’s a good thing.
So many days it’s hard to decide what photo to choose. I keep wanting to include a photo of the foam-bubble patterns left by the receding waves. I take many pictures of them. Perhaps tomorrow.
I can’t decide which picture to use today. I have one of gull prints to contrast with yesterday’s of sandpiper prints. But the sky was glorious and so was the water. I don’t want to flood this small blog with photos. I don’t want to flood it with words. I want it to be simple and quiet and calm. OK. So here are three photos and no more words.
We went to the beach twice today, once just to look and once to walk and look. There seemed to be more birds than ever, including a huge flock of sandpipers that were nestling into a long expanse of pebbles. Their shape and coloring were such that they almost seemed to be pebbles themselves.
The footprints are small — and delicate. A single wave would probably erase them. Their distribution is dense enough to imply a large group, possibly shuffling themselves around. Jockeying for position? Settling in? These must be sandpiper prints; they are too small to belong to the gulls. They seem embossed rather than embedded. How?
New drawings today: lower left corner in the photo. Swirls and curls, as if a strand of grass had been drawn through the sand, or a thread curled just under the surface. Very fine and delicate; I had to enlarge the photo to make them visible. I saw some yesterday, too, but didn’t photograph them. Yesterday was about the light; today about the sand. Today I was there before sunset. Each time reveals its treasures.
And upper right of the stone, a musical note seems etched. Have the dolphins been at play? How desperately we want to believe, how yearningly we want to know. I will despair if I ever tire of this! There is an entire fable there in this small patch of sand, waiting to be constructed. I wait for it.