July 12, 2002


The pink balloon scudded down the edge of that body of water that goes from here to England. In a few hours it would traverse the miles to the mouth of the Annisquam River. But momentarily it was tethered by a long ribbon of similar hue to the lip of the lap of the outgoing tide.

I live close by a beautiful four mile stretch of sand, Crane Beach, but I am not a beach person. I am more of a mountain person. But one morning in late June, just in the first days of summer, the beach called to me.

The view descending from the entrance walkway jolted me. Early morning no one was there. Even the lifeguards had not arrived. The expanse of sand rolled toward the sun and shimmered flat and clean from the receding tide. Only a few lifeguard stands, one toppled in the night, marred the table top surface.

A hard and steady wind blew from the North. Two sailboats emerged from the mouth of the Ipswich River and chased me down the strand. The solitary large jibs puffed out proudly as they ran with the wind.

I wished that I was running too, but my ankle will no longer allow it. I wished to be moving fast, straining my body and locking my mind onto my own rhythm. But I have been forced to walk.

And then I noticed the moving sand. The beach was smokin’. Rivulets of sand scampered in wavy lines parallel to the water’s edge, just inches off the ground. As I walked with the flow my calves were stung by the grains of sand racing like air vapors streaming over an airplane’s wing. I was walking slowly in the light brown streams of sand.

In my reverie I was passed from behind by two women on their morning walk. I am usually embarrassed to be passed by women. It is a macho thing. But at that moment I was not into speed or quantity of miles. I walked at a slow pace and stopped when I wanted to stop.

I was busy noticing. The boats were gaining on me. A fisherman in waders worked hard out in the water. The waves were white capped. The water was dark and looked cold. The beer can at water’s edge had a barely recognizable label. Nature had been working hard to wear off the indications of civilization from the can. A black coffee cup lid sat fastened to the beach.

And the pink balloon on the string. Where did it come from? There were no children on the beach. There were no birthday parties on the beach. There were no mailboxes on which to hang an “It’s a Girl!” balloon.

Pink balloon, sand streams, beer can, coffee lid, sailboats, white caps, early morning light, walkers, fisherman, foot tracks, emptiness, dark water and hard wind – for a few moments we were all together and connected. We knew not each other and yet somehow we chose or were chosen to be there, creating several still frames in the movie of my life, in another walker’s life and in the life of a pink balloon. All scudding through the sands of time.