Today I have an aerial view of the mouth of Redwood Creek that didn’t exist on my last walk here two weeks ago. I’m sitting on an sliding escarpment of sand, first built up, then sharply carved by the past two months of winter rain and shifting ocean currents. On this same point of beach, where I once walked at the same level as the waves, I’m perched on the edge of an eroding precipice 25 feet above the westward bending creek.
The creek has two mouths today: the main channel rippling its way to the right and flushing into the open ocean, and a smaller, shallower channel trickling off the corner of the main channel, a tiny backwater passage that won’t exist in a few hours when its fresh banks are overrun by the incoming tide.
I can feel imminent change foreshadowed in this morning’s cool northerly breeze. By this time next month, the rains will have all but ceased. The gray sands will have closed the creek’s access to the sea as the creek is drained of winter rains and melting snow, lacking the energy to break through the sandy barrier.
Gray whales crease the placid ocean just beyond the cresting waves, shepherding their newborns through the dangerous maze of coastal rocks and orcas to the Arctic.
Geese move south, resting in the calm and shallow water of the estuary, feeding on the grasses planted for California’s happy cows.
Four Caspian terns mingle with a smaller-than-usual crowd of gulls on the thin isthmus of sand that holds back the blunt force of the Pacific from the estuary. Yesterday, a coworker spied six pelicans hovering over the surf, a sure sign that summer is not too far beyond this horizon.
There are fewer seals here now than the 40-strong horde hauled out on the beach most of last month. One surfs by in the rapids of Redwood Creek, turning a slippery shoulder back in my direction as he passes, gawking at the comparably blubber-free fool on the hill.
“We’re having more fun down here in the waves,” I imagine him calling up to me. His dark eyes laugh at the lonely figure who sits on a broken log safe from chill and power of the ocean, separated in so many ways from the seal’s world, a world of which he enviously and distantly wishes to be a part.