Ahh, the beach. The gentle sound of the waves caressing the sand. A cool drink in my hand. Contemplating the vastness of the ocean, of the sky. Losing myself in the horizon, the endless, unreachable horizon. Most people think of the beach as a warm, sunny place to read trashy novels and surf. To drink exotic tropical concoctions with an umbrella. If this is your mental vision of the beach you are in for a shock. I have often mentioned that Valdez is the recipient of massive quantities of snow. The snow also falls on the ocean, the beach. The only thing keeping the beach free of snow is the timeless rise and fall of the tide. It is possible to travel, via snow, to the ocean.
We left the car on our skis while it was snowing, the air neither warm nor cold. In my memory the snow makes everything quiet. To the south the mountains loomed in and out of the storm, often totally obscured, faint outlines hinting at what the storm hid. We surprised a flock of white birds hiding in the snow. As the birds took to the sky they would have disappeared in the mist if not for the jet-black edge of their tail feathers. A bald eagle watched over from high atop a leafless cottonwood tree.
We came across the beach suddenly. The smell of low tide, a clean, strong reminder of the past two years. Sharply reminding us we are tied a the dock for winter. When the wind howls through the harbor Bluewater strains at her lines like a wild horse, unwillingly saddled and reined, trying to spit out the bit in her teeth. She talks to me in the night, dreaming, she tells me of her longing, her desire to feel the water rush past her keel, to feel the wind fill her sails. We dream together. Soon I promise. Very soon.
Then, there it was, the ocean, the end of the snow. A clear line, the beginning of one, the end of another. If only all things had such clear beginnings, such clear ends. That day as I followed Susanna’s path through the trees, around the trees, over and under tangled knots of bushes; I thought of another day, long ago. Skiing through the trees, over the trees, around the trees, it seemed endless, the up and down, the never ending path, nothing but trees and the twisting, relentless path. No endless horizon to chase, no incomprehensible distance. Only an occasional flash of blue through the endless treetops and the ever-winding path. Was I chasing a dream? That winding path through the trees?
Our ski lead me to the beach, a clear line of demarcation, but behind that line, where the snow gave way to the black rocks of the beach, there lay another horizon. Another bend. Some place out of reach.
I am neither happy or sad, neither really tense nor really relaxed. Perhaps that is the way it is when a man gazes at the stars asking himself questions he is not mature enough to answer. So one day he is happy, the next a bit sad without knowing why. It is a little like the horizon: For all your distinctly seeing sky and sea come together on the same line. For all your constantly making for it, the horizon stays at the same distance, right at hand and out of reach. Yet deep down you know that the way covered is all that counts.
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