I walk north along the beach this morning, the warming yellows of the rising sun on my right, the cool gray fog blowing softly off the ocean to my left. As the sun slowly slides above the tops of the nearby hills, the alchemy of early morning turns the low-lying silvery haze to gold.
Aggressive waves overtopped the spit last night, clearing the sand of yesterday's footprints and gullprints. Steep banks have been carved into the sloping sands by the surf. A solitary line of tracks left by an early rising fox bisects the beach.
At the edge of the estuary, two pairs of Caspian terns each stake out some private space. In each pair, a larger steely-gray backed bird stands alongside a slightly smaller, mottled brown partner. A mating pair perhaps; Caspian terns partner for life. Or maybe a mother and child, or a father and child; these largest of terns continue to provide food for their children for up several months after they're born.
In either case, my presence disturbs them all. The two closest to me squawk off to join the second pair a hundred yards or so further up the beach, safe from this Converse clad intruder. The foursome is then interrupted by an annoyed gull who chases off one of the larger birds. Moments later, the absent tern is joined in its escape by one of the smaller ones.
The estuary waters shimmer in the morning light. Across the estuary, small frogs leap silently skyward, inches above the water's surface, making a meal of low flying insects before splashing awkwardly back into the green pool. The entire estuary simmers with hundreds of tiny splashes.
Like the seals in winter though, the frogs seem to sense my presence and the splashing diminishes wherever I approach the shore. They hide well in the clear water, waiting until I've moved on or turned away before resuming their breakfast.
It feels like fall. The number of people stopping by has suddenly and dramatically diminished. Our summer staff slowly dwindles, one by one heading off to other endeavours. The hectic pace of summer melts into the reflective calm of autumn. And, once again there's time to think. Time to walk. Time to wonder. Again. Thankfully.