Return of the Sun

This entry is part 30 of 133 in the series 2011 Photojournal

The forecast was for cloudy to mostly cloudy skies with a chance of snow. Instead it ended up partly cloudy with the sun only occasionally being partly obscured by a small cloud. After lunch I was thinking the kids and I would go for a walk around the park, but the sun was nicely warming a spot on the beach protected from the light breeze, and I couldn’t resist sitting down on a rock and enjoying the feeling of the sun warming my skin. (In actuality, I gave the kids the choice to walk around and hang out near the park entrance. However it was pretty much a foregone conclusion they would want to hang out, they are usually reluctant to walk around the park, preferring instead to catch bullheads in the tide pools near the visitor center.)

In a group mentoring call series I am a part of, we have been challenged to use what is called the ‘story teller’s mind’ to try and capture a full sensory experience and be able to retell it later. (An attentive mentor will be able to listen to these stories and start to notice patterns of emphasis and/or gaps in awareness, and over time subtly draw the teller in a fuller awareness by asking questions about things that might have escaped attention.) While relaxing down at the beach today, I tried to bring my full attention to bear on my surroundings and will attempt to recreate the experience in words. I’ll say up front that I’m not super good at this yet, as I have a tendency to pull back into my thoughts in general (and this afternoon was no different), and today I’m pretty sure I dozed off for at least a couple of minutes once or twice.

The sun is in the south as I try to decide where to sit. I want a place that is relatively comfortable, dry, and not subject to even the light breeze that is moving across the tide flats to the southeast. There’s a drift log stranded high on the rocks – each end perched on a bed rock outcrop, the central part suspended a couple of feet above baseball-sized and smaller rocks worn round and smooth by the tumbling action of waves over time. This log has been here for many years – I have memories of it going back to my childhood. I reflect briefly on searching for beach glass in the cobbles under it while I was in elementary school. I consider sitting on the cobbles in front of the log, but between the drips of snow-melt falling regularly along the length of the log, and still significant moisture just below the sun-dried surface rocks, I decide it’s unlikely I would be able to stay dry there. Instead, I find a spot on the bedrock outcrop where it is dry, I can recline reasonably comfortably, and yet I’m not out too far so that I catch the cooling puffs of wind.

The bedrock is cool to the touch. Rough edges have been rounded and smoothed, but there are still angular joints where, at some point in the long distant past, a chunk of rock cracked from the main body and was eventually removed. It’s in one of these spots I choose to sit facing between South and West (I can’t remember precisely, but I think it was SW or maybe closer to WSW). I rolled up my pant legs and turned my head to get the full sun on my face. The warming of my skin from the sun’s radiation was greater than any heat I gave up to the still cool air, and I closed my eyes to relax and enjoy the feeling.

The branches of a spruce tree growing up from just above the beach behind me extended out to a point a few feet above me. I heard and felt an occasional drop of water from the snow melting out between the needles. I could hear the high-pitched contact calls of Golden-crowned Kinglets foraging for insects in those branches, while on the ground closer to the trunk I could hear an equally high-pitched single note repeated sporadically by a sparrow (later confirmed to be a Song Sparrow). Somewhere in the west to northwest a little distance away, I could hear a crossbill singing. It did not seem to be a full song, so I don’t recall noticing the call notes of a foraging flock, so I don’t know if this might have been a young male practicing his song while looking for territory, or what.

The tide was out a fair bit and seemed to be falling, so between me and the ocean was a fair distance of exposed flats. I noticed silhouettes of gulls and ducks out just offshore, but the bright sunlight and distance didn’t inspire me to work too hard to confirm any identities. While there was little or no surface chop close to shore, small remnants of the large swells that move through the sound lapped against the shore (I think I could hear them, I can’t recall specifically). Rowan spent much of the time squatted down intently looking for bullheads in a tidepool southeast of my position. A short distance behind me past a small patch of trees, the overall quiet was disturbed from time to time by a passing vehicle on the road.

I’m sure there must have been odors to smell, but I don’t remember noticing any at the time – especially considering the exposed beach and small bits of seaweed and such that were pushed up by the high tide.

Overall, it felt like a pretty relaxed time. I don’t recall feeling like there was any tension in the air, even though I heard a Song Sparrow alarm a couple of times, I think that was more territorial squabbling or mild agitation at passers-by on the sidewalk.

There are other details I recall – the spider crawling up my jacket that I watched closely for a moment after I got it to crawl on my hand – a fly or two landing on the rocks – people walking their dogs along the park trail – but I think I’ll leave it at that.

Later in the day I stopped by Swan Lake briefly. Most of the previously open water had slushed over, but there was still a sizable opening near the peninsula. In addition to the usual assortment Mallards, there were also 5 Ring-necked Ducks, 4 or so Lesser Scaup, and 3 American Wigeons.

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