After weeks of running from one end of the day to the other, I'm finding a few moments like yesterday afternoon to slow down and take a little time to think. A gray day, warm with the slightest of ocean breezes beckons me to the beach. As if that's not enough, I'm further spurred outdoors by the snide rantings of our resident crank who's determined to jerk every chain in the building. I escape to the calm of the Pacific, necessarily, and finally.
It's a quiet ocean today, barely a sound from the small, regularly rolling waves. A western grebe greets me at water's edge, his long slender neck held erect as he glides over the placid waters.
An elderly man in chest-high waders leans into the small surf. His handmade tripod fish net dips into the waves, searching, as the Yurok have done here for centuries. Our fisherman today is accompanied by his wife, three or four harbor seals, a couple of cormorants, and a gaggle of gulls. Apparently he's found a good spot. That, or the critters are as hopeful as he is.
He's retired, I come to learn, and lives in Blue Lake. He and the Missus wander up here a few times every year around this time. They're not fishing for anyone but themselves, just enough to stock the freezer. As he steps from the waves up to the dry sand, he holds up the bottom of the net which contains maybe a dozen silvery smelt and says to her, "Got my dinner. What're you havin'?"
The seals roll in the shallow surf briefly stranding themselves on the wet sand before wobbling themselves back into the waves. Seems they're having more success in hunting up some lunch than our fisherman.
Cormorants are common today, and pelicans are plentiful. It's quiet. There's activity, but not much of it. A perfectly lazy afternoon. Finally, time to think.
This kind of time has been rare this past month or more. At work, seven new summer rangers have joined us, all of 'em new, and in need of training, guidance, help, research and resources, and as you might expect from the government, tons of bureaucratic papers and hoops to overcome.
The girls' softball seasons are in full swing. I don't help my own downtime by coaching both of their teams, VP'ing the league, writing and managing the league schedules and tournaments, and creating and maintaining the league website.
But our seasons have been wonderful. Our 10 & Under girls are 6-4-2 going into the end of season tournament (a loss in the tourney last night has us needing to win the next one to keep playing). They're goofy and frenetic and learning so much so quickly. Our 16 & Under team is 11-0 thanks to stellar pitching, strong hitting (including a legit over-the-heads-of-everybody home run by my very own kid last week!), and experienced defense. We're the odds-on favorite to win it all, finally, this year.
We'll have an 8th grade graduate - a valedictorian, no less - this weekend, bringing family to town, a host of school trips, 8th grade dinners, awards ceremonies, and all the attendant events and emotions. Can it really be that my tow-headed baby girl who just yesterday paddled off to her first day of kindergarten in a blue and white catholic plaid jumper is off to high school?
Redwood Creek is in the final stages of becoming Redwood Lagoon for another summer. The sand bar thickens at the creek's mouth, a wall that the dwindling force of tumbling valley streams can longer overwhelm.
Parallel to the surf lies a 200-foot long, 15-foot wide pond where the creek just a month ago took a sharp right-angle turn to the south. That pond is now closed but for a small opening, just barely leapable by a bulging mid-lifer with just enough spring left in his step.
30 Caspian terns stand at the edge of a larger flock of western and mew gulls at the mouth of the creek. They're not happy with my approach and embark en masse. These orange-billed terns are much more graceful in flight than the frantic flapping of the gulls. Their bright white wings, tipped in black and thinly curved cut the air, soaring and curling above me, barking at me to keep moving.
The creek is now a slow meander to the sea, maybe 20 feet across at its mouth but still eight to ten feet deep. The ocean continues to push in while the creek presses out, but without the violence of the winter clash. As summer approaches, the creek slows. Another week or maybe two, and the summer lagoon will become still 'til the rains return.
I've never been a fisherman. It's not a requisite element in the cultural heritage of a suburban east coast kid. It doesn't look like a bad way to spend a quiet afternoon on the beach. For now though, even the efforts of this old fisherman, quietly, purposefully, easily dipping his net up and down in the surf looks like too much work. I'm enjoying the moment just sitting here, watching him and the rafting pelicans wait for the fish to come in.