Posts Tagged ‘tide’

Citizen/Science

King tide at Big River Beach

King tide at Big River Beach, Mendocino

A king tide this morning, and we’d heard that it would be useful for people to document how high the water came, so that we’d have some idea what to expect as climate change brings rises in sea level. An excellent excuse to amble down to Big River Beach in Mendocino with my new camera and practice getting my horizons horizontal.

Sandbar

Water over the sandbar, Big River Beach, Mendocino

We’ve had no major rainstorms yet this winter to wash out the sandbar that builds up at the mouth of the river. From a vantage point on the cliff, we watched the tide creep over the bar, then took the old steps down to the beach to check on the tide height at the bridge. Yes, the water was high, too high to walk on sand and touch the bridge pier, as we can usually do.

Under bridge

High tide under Big River Bridge

Strolling back along the tide line, we were enjoying the peace and quiet beauty of the scene when I noticed something that set my teeth on edge: a plastic dog poop bag discarded by a driftwood log. I’ve seen such offerings frequently around this region: beside a signpost, on the edge of a trail. I want to shake the humans who leave them, who are so unclear on the concept of citizenship they have no thought for the environmental mess they are causing. It’s no wonder the sea level is rising.

Discarded bag of dog poop

Texts

Searoad, a story collection by Ursula K. LeGuin, has a permanent place on my bedside table. It’s there because every now and then I need to reread a certain story. A very short story, less than three pages, it is titled “Texts,” and tells of an older woman who, bombarded by messages and calls to action, retreats to the coastal Oregon village of Klatsand for a month-long winter break. As she walks on the deserted beach, she notices that the waves have left messages in the lines of foam, messages she can almost decipher. The laciness of the foam leads her to speculate that crochet work and lace might also be legible. In a handmade lace collar she reads a message that seems directed to her: “my soul must go, my soul must go … sister, sister, light the light.” There the story ends, with the woman not knowing “what she was to do, or how she was to do it.”

I think of this oddly moving little story every time I walk on Ten Mile Beach, as I did last Sunday. The receding waves left undulating lines of bubbles, iridescent in the hazy sunlight, that popped to form patterns of foam. Scattered across the beach were strands of bull kelp, dried into coils and loops that lay like a cursive script on the sand.

Yesterday, when the wind was brisk and the sea streaked with white caps, I remembered an interview I did for the Mendocino Art Center magazine. It was part of a series I wrote on artists who helped found the art center in the 1960s. By the time I met Jim Bertram in the early 2000s, he was senile and nonverbal, so I had to rely on material in the art center archives for information about his background and artistic vision. Nevertheless, Jim and I spent a wonderful afternoon together. I think a poem I wrote at the time sums it up:

MESSAGES

For JB

 “Line expresses the inner thought. It is a narrative of what we really want to tell each other but somehow can’t seem to verbalize.”

– Jim Bertram

 These bright spring days, when the wind

scribbles its white calligraphy

on a wash of aquamarine,

I think of the artist in his studio

upstairs of a weathered storefront

overlooking Mendocino Bay.

Sheet after curling sheet he showed me, canvas

after canvas, covered with calligraphic forms

that could have been words, but were not.

 

In our shared silence I understood his drift:

how sometimes what matters most is inarticulate:

like the line of spray from a lifting wave,

the hand of an old man painting messages of love.

 

On my way downstairs from Jim’s studio, I fell in love with one of his paintings, which now has a place of honor in my house. I smile when I read its message.

Bertram painting

Jim Bertram: Untitled, acrylic on canvas. Eppstein collection

Edge of the Creek

High tide was at dawn. By noon, the breaking waves are far distant, and the creek on its way to the sea has cut a miniature cliff through damp sand. A reflection of sun on water ripples along the vertical face, fluted already by tiny sand-falls. As I watch, more sand avalanches skitter down to where, about half-way to the water, an undulating line with a little thickness to it, like a welted trim, defines where the vertical cliff gives way to a more gradual slope. The damp sand grains bounce off the ridged line and spread out down-slope, coming to rest at about forty degrees, their angle of repose. The scene is a microcosm of the world’s geological processes, the lifting up of land masses, the crumbling away. But what strikes me most is the beauty of it: the rippling light, the fluted cliff, the flurries of sand. I am mesmerized by pattern.

Of Moons and Tides

New Years Day. the ritual of changing the calendars. I take down the old  Nature Conservancy calendar, with its beautiful wildlife pictures, and hang its replacement,  the 2010 calendar.  I replace the little tide book tucked behind the portable radio on a kitchen counter. My book shows the high and low tides as a wavy line undulating across the days of the month. My moon chart too is visual: for each month, an arching line of moons, their phases making a dramatic pattern of light and dark across the year. I love these graphic images. I love too, that by comparing the charts for moon and tide,  I can see the pull of the moon’s gravity on water, can glimpse the rhythms that make up our world.

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