We come to the frosted rim of the sea

A kindly lady wearing the customary park ranger garb lifted her head as I entered. After several days of driving, I had arrived at Sea Rim State Park in south Texas, an isolated four-mile strip of Gulf shoreline near the Louisiana border.

“The park looks beautiful,” I said. She smiled bashfully, but secretly delighted, as my mother is when you compliment her home.

The winds push harder and the gray is broken, a scattering of sepia light on the sand and the wave caps whiter in that moment, and I stoop to pick a broken clamshell and roll my fingers across its hard ridges, hearing its old home crash upon the shore. tweet

She handed me a printed pass. “Well, you’re the only one here for a while. The off-season, you know. But I like this time of year best. It’s quiet.”

“I think I’ll like it too,” I said.

“Cold. Supposed to rain tomorrow,” she said, not believing my enthusiasm.

“Will the sand still be okay to drive on?”

“Oh, I think so. Just stay near the top edge, close to the marsh, and you should be okay.”

“That’s good,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to be washed out to sea. My little camper doesn’t know how to swim.” She looked puzzled, so I smiled and said goodbye. She seemed happy to have me.

It is winter on the shore. The gray sky shifts and moves, edge-less, so there is no line where it meets the land, just a fuzzy collision of air and earth, and where it meets the water there is no difference. The winds push harder and the gray is broken, a scattering of sepia light on the sand and the wave caps whiter in that moment, and I stoop to pick a broken clamshell and roll my fingers across its hard ridges, hearing its old home crash upon the shore.

Twenty feet out a heron stands in the water, hunched and swayed by the gusty swale, no luck yet with food, just blue feet and shivers. I’d offer him a cup of cocoa if thought acceptable. He could come in and tell me about the sunshine of his youth. tweet

As I walk along the sand, the plovers sprint ahead like feathery Eskimo children chasing butterflies across the tundra. Twenty feet out a heron stands in the water, hunched and swayed by the gusty swale, no luck yet with food, just blue feet and shivers. I’d offer him a cup of cocoa if thought acceptable. He could come in and tell me about the sunshine of his youth.

I trace the seaweed lines and reach the boundaries of the park, the beach continuing on but I wanting no part of it today. Up there in the strong air currents flies a solitary gull, not making progress nor regress, until finally it overturns and falls into the tall grasses, where it might recover its resources and tell its wife bird about the day’s difficulties. So I too turn around and head back to Walden.

Perhaps the gulls will wake me, as they did yesterday, walking atop the roof, the sound of their tapping feet inspiring my dreams of paperclip squalls. tweet

In the night the marsh weeds rattle their cream-colored bulbs and Walden shakes and rocks, buffeted by the wind. I light candles and boil tea and fall asleep to the thought of icicle-nosed alligators and hidden pools rippling behind the dunes. Perhaps the morning will bring warmth for us all. Perhaps the gulls will wake me, as they did yesterday, walking atop the roof, the sound of their tapping feet inspiring my dreams of paperclip squalls.

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