September 23, 1997

The View

I went to a different beach yesterday. No, I am lying. I went to the same beach that I always go to, but it looked different. It is usually crowded with sun worshippers, but Labor Day has taken them all away. A few hardy souls made up the small community.

Two middle aged lovers in black embraced and groped each other standing near the water’s edge. Although not alone, the near emptiness of the beach provided adequate cover for them. I wanted to go up to them and suggest that they use the beach as their bedroom, no one would care, but I avoided them and walked the other way.

Further down the beach a boy and his mother splashed in bathing suits. The air temperature was 68 degrees and the water was around 60 degrees, so bathing suits were not the normal apparel of the day. It is autumn after all. Summer ended two days ago and most people had received the message and stayed home. But no one told this child. He wanted to be in the ocean. If this had been a cool day in July, the beach would have been crowded, but most had moved on to a new schedule of activities now. Only the boy frolicked. Even the other walkers were dressed for cold and they walked with purpose. Cold weather means serious stuff here in New England.

Two old men were working independently, sweeping the sands with metal detectors. They walk hunched over with their head phones on tightly. I have never listened to one of those things, but I assume that it produces a static like the Geiger counters on TV. But maybe it is a totally different sound. I hope it is. Maybe it is like the cry of humpback whales. Maybe the squeals of dolphins fill their ears. Maybe they are really listening to their favorite CD’s.

The men worked rhythmically, back and forth down the beach. It would be a lulling motion. I would like that. But once in awhile they hear something and stop. And they get down on their knees and start sifting. They carry a sifter that looks like a wacky joke on Mr. Coffee: a coffee pot full of holes. They kneel and sift the sands of time. What an image. What a metaphor.

I stopped and sat half way up the wooden bridge which goes back over the dunes to the parking lot. This was a different beach today. I think it was the angle of the light that changed the beach for me. The sun drops lower later in the year and leaves sharp, crisp impressions. It focused on the vignettes of the lovers, the boy, and the old me. Or maybe it was the angle of the viewer.

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