Many moods


I suppose that every place has a thousand moods. I remember the sunrises and sunsets of my childhood home. We lived on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, north of Yellowstone National Park and south of the Crazy Mountains. It was a place of a lot of wind. We could get winter days when the weather was absolutely brutal with temperatures well below zero and the wind biting. Ice crystals would sting your cheeks and we would turn with our backs to the wind. Some days we would walk home from school backwards. It wasn’t a long walk, just one block, but the icy wind was cruel. On the other hand, we could get a chinook wind in the middle of the winter and the weather would warm up and we might have a week of balmy days in February when all of the snow melted and we began to think of kites and other outdoor games.

When we lived in North Dakota, I was always amazed at how we could see the weather coming. The clouds were so dramatic over the rolling landscape. A cold front looked like a wall of clouds. A thunderstorm could be seen approaching for miles. Hail clouds went from dark blue to black to a greenish color.

The Black Hills of South Dakota were filled with weather surprises. A spring blizzard could dump a foot or more of wet snow and shut down all travel. A summer thunderstorm could send all of the creeks over their banks.

Every place seems to have many different moods.

In our new home here in Washington, we are aware of the many moods of the seashore. There is a path along the shore where we walk at least a couple of times each week. We’ll walk a little over a mile alongside of the town of Birch Bay and then turn around and walk back. Some days we are walking into the wind heading out and other days into the wind heading back. The sea might be blue or green or gray. There are days when the islands seem close and easy to see. There are other days when we can’t see the islands at all, only the gray of fog and clouds. We joke about our disappearing islands, and remember how the mountains seemed some days to be closer and other days to be far away in my home town in Montana.

The water in the bay can be completely calm and glassy smooth on some days. There are other days when the water is choppy with whitecaps. Sometimes there are big waves crashing on the shore and other days no surf at all. Yesterday felt like spring with bright sunshine and a blue sea. We walked with our jackets unzipped and I took off my gloves. I commented that it must be about time to trade my watch cap for a summer cap. But we remember clearly this second week of February a year ago, when our daughter and grandson were visiting on their way from Japan to South Carolina and we had to bundle up in our winter coats to play in the snow. We’d have to drive up into the mountains to find snow this February. I’ll probably mow my lawn on Monday. The mood is different this year.

The grocery stores around here have large covered entryways and the produce and flower departments spill out of the stores. It is common for a grocery store to have the front doors open all day long. Right now there are plants and flowers and displays of strawberries ready for Valentine’s Day giving. We’ve lived most of our lives in places where such displays would result in frozen flowers and fruits, so it is still a bit surprising to me to find so much of the store’s produce outside in February.

We have lived most of our lives a thousand miles from any ocean. But as a child, before I had ever visited a seashore, I learned the Spike Milligan poem:

I must go down to the sea again,
to the lonely sea and the sky;
I left my shoes and socks there -
I wonder if they’re dry?

I didn’t know at the time why a person would need to go to the sea or why one would leave their shoes and socks there. I now understand the desire to wet one’s feet in the ocean, even though were we live the beach is more gravel than sand. It’s still a bit cold for barefoot wandering and we are more likely to put on our boots for a trip to the beach, but I now have a sense of how one could forget one’s shoes and socks.

Moreover, I now understand the attraction of the shore that results in the imperative “must” in the opening line of the poem. There is a strong attraction to visit the seashore for those of us who live near enough to visit. Like the mountains, the sea gives a sense of the vastness of creation. Walking along the shore one feels a bit of the scale of this world. We are but two small creatures on the edge of the vastness of an ocean that stretches to Japan and a thousand faraway places.

The many moods of the seashore are incredibly attractive. We could walk through the woods or across the fields, but there are a lot of days when we feel the desire to go down to the beach just to see the mood of the sea and sky.

Yesterday when we walked, Terrell Creek was flowing away from the shore as the tide was rising. There aren’t any creeks in the mountains where the direction of the current changes, so this phenomenon fascinates me. If you understood the ebb and flow of the tide, you could launch a canoe or kayak and travel one direction with the flow and later return with the water carrying your boat in the opposite direction.

I’m sure I’ll never tire of looking at the moods of the sea.

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