Steely water runs out of a creek, cutting a bank through sand before disappearing into the froth and fury of the ocean, blue beaten white as it crashes on the beach. The wind is hard and cold, clouds low. David and I walk with our heads down, trying to keep the chill off our faces.
We gather driftwood sticks, feathers, black curled strings and bubbles of dried seaweed. I’m imagining a mobile of sailboats hung from sea bleached wood, feathers floating between the curls of seaweed. There are small white feathers, long broad gray ones, one with white circles on a dark background. The mobile will be for my father, a man who grew up on the ocean, who taught me to sail, who took me and my sisters to the beach during hurricanes so we could watch the surf smash over the seawall. I’m making an ocean he can hang in the house, a beach above the table where he paints sailboats and marshes and waves.
We guess the distance from one end of the beach to the other. We get it right. When we turn to walk back the clouds open for a few minutes of sun and the warmth is startling, backs to the wind, faces to the light. The far shore is luminous under a sky the color of a new bruise, blue beginning to bleed into black. No yellow yet.
By the time we’re headed home it’s so dark I feel lost. I can hardly see the road, the early night so heavy we’re wrapped in blankness. The tunnel of winter is coming, an approach I feel more than see.
My father is 91, he hasn’t been on the ocean for over a decade. He never walks the beach anymore, though he sits by the harbor and watches boats come and go. He takes photographs and paints, creating a seaside. I’m creating the sky.