Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Stepping On Snow In Late July

DISCOVERY BAY, WASHINGTON — The tide rides in twice each day, slides out twice as well. On this day, first high tide was at 1:17 a.m., an event I missed. By then the sleepy waters of Discovery Bay covered the crunchy layer of shellfish and the cedar-shingle-covered sand. It lapped close to the wiry grass. By 8:56 a.m. the tide had receded out nearly to the white buoy placed to mark the lowest edge, a linear distance of about 45 feet and a height difference of more than nine feet. By 5:29 p.m. the tide was at its highest level of the day at 8.1 feet, and by 9:24 p.m. had receded again, but only to 6.5 feet.

Be patient. I’ll get over my nerdiness in a moment. It’s a deeply ingrained trait.

We have neither wireless internet nor cable television in our lovely cottage on the bay. My bride is fine with that, being naturally opposed to the wired world. Her new husband and our daughter — hers from the get-go, mine officially since mid-June — are having withdrawal symptoms. We keep scamming wifi off the landlord’s line by perching ourselves just outside his back door, or using my iPhone to acquire in painfully slow fashion a connection to the online world.

In defense, I get online to fulfill minor work obligations, reply to emails and knock out a couple editorials, as well as this piece. I can live without the news while vacationing in paradise. The 13-year-old, however, believes we have brought her to this place as a form of punishment: no malls, no wifi, no television. Access to Facebook is sparse. I hope her friends survive not learning her status for hours at a time. It’s iffy.

I head out for a walk along the beach. A family of sea otters lives behind a row of pilings placed to keep the hillside from eroding further. They venture out each day to gambol about in the bay. One fellow suns himself on a small floating dock; others appear briefly before diving back down for a breakfast treat. Herons line the shore like sentries, moving systematically as we approach on a morning walk, keeping their distance as ducks and seagulls fly overhead, squawking. To the south, the tallest mountains of the Olympic range still have snow above the treeline. We can see the peaks to the south across the bay depending on the cloud cover.

I never tire of watching the light change over Discovery Bay from early morning through the day, unto dusk. Fog floats across the water some mornings, returning as the sun sinks. My wife saw the eagle that lives here the other day. I’m still looking as I trudge down the beach, early morning or as dusk falls. Light reigns in these parts, at times sunglasses bright, and minutes later turning the world into a miasma of gray.

The other night we sat outside as darkness crept in, warming ourselves by a firepit. On July 28, we Texas refugees built a fire and reveled in the fact we could do so. A fire wasn’t exactly needed to stay warm. Just the fact we could build one without being arrested for violating a burn ban — or not being adjudged insane for wanting to do so — was simply lovely. Earlier that day we had hiked along Hurricane Ridge and walked across giant snowpiles that obscured the trail.

Snowpiles! Just three days before August begins! It simply doesn’t have to get any better than this.

Like all vacations, this one must end eventually. But for now, I’m sipping coffee on the deck while wearing a light jacket, keeping an eye out for the eagle. The clouds are rolling in over the mountains once again. It might rain. I hope so.

(Still more to come.)

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