I’ve heard the reports. Negative abysmal temperatures again tonight. Let’s just pretend, shall we?
Let’s say we’re in that cottage by the ocean. You know the place. We’ve just unloaded the car and are hurriedly running around to see what’s changed since last year, claiming bedrooms, putting the sheets we’d packed only hours ago onto welcoming beds, pulling back the curtains.
Then running out the door (let that screen door slam) and down the sandy path to the dune above the beach. It’s late and getting dark, but we can still see enough to see how steep the slope is. Kick off those shoes. They’re safe. Unleash the dog. He knows the way. Hit the sand with our bare feet and it feels cold, but not enough to stop us.
Let gravity pull us down that dune. Let the ocean pull us across the high tide line of wrack, driftwood, charred wood from someone else’s beach fire.
Look! The sun’s just setting and the gulls are quieting. Is that a seal or a wave? Too dark to tell.
The dog’s already ankle-deep in foam. The ocean’s laughing. The waves are kicking up a fuss, reaching and receding, frizzling and falling over itself in excitement that we’re finally here.
Everyone else is leaving; they must have dinner plans. But we? We have potato chips and hot chocolate in the cottage, and we’ll get to that by-and-by. We have all the time in the world.
LeCount Hollow Beach, Wellfleet, MA
the pewter sky is darkening
in the undefined time
between the endless afternoon
of buckets and spades,
sandy potato chips
and the offered evening,
when we, freshly showered,
will drive the well-worn route into town,
step into our favorite restaurant
order drinks, and review our options.
in this time between then and next
we sit on the slope of the dune
and watch the smudged line
between strand and sea
as it shuffles toward us
then hisses away
the man’s arms are around the woman
the woman’s arms are around the child
the dog is running on the packed sand
like a seal with legs
nothing will ever be better than this
a three-masted schooner, sails puffed
like marshmallow balloons
could sail right along the shore,
the captain waving to us,
the brass buttons on his coat
sparkling in the last
sideways slant sunlight
and the moment could not be more perfect
with the blurry line between sea and strand
with the girl and her sea-salted hair
with the pup racing the waves
with the man and woman
who have been through the worst
who know there is worse to come.
in a few minutes,
they’ll reluctantly rise,
gather up the beach toys and blankets
and walk the sandy trail to the cottage
home away from home
the evening beckons
the woman’s heart beats
the useless refrain: