Place Where You Live:

Bodega Bay, California

Fronds of salt-encrusted kelp curl as they dry. Two seagulls sail from the headland and cut over the shoreline, so close I can hear the slice of their wings. In the quiet of the morning the music of their flight is rust-colored, and falls from beautiful sharp-edged patterns into my ears.

It is summer’s end, and I have driven out to the coast for a walk along the beach – my idea of Sunday morning worship.

Under a mantle of thick fog, everything takes on a monotone palette. Gone is the brilliant blue of sky, the jewel-like glitter of sun on waves, the sun’s creamy yellow glow. Water and sky merge into a smudge that envelops all shades of grey into one, and one shade into all. Fog obscures distant hills as it shadows the back of waves. In the foreground the darkened silhouette of an isolated fishing boat is barely visible.

Abandoned sand dollars bleach white. Crab claws and shells crisp to salty wafers tangled amid ragged skeins of seaweed. Encased under a thick dome of fog, I experience a purity of sensation. Deprived of visual distance, my attention is lured to attend to only what is right in front of me in this moment.

Freshly abandoned by a wave, a small silver fish glistens.

I come upon a washed-up seabird. Her white breast is dirty, black wings tattered. A sharp bill points seaward past the dark pockets of her sightless eye sockets. She has decomposed to reveal portions of backbone and skeleton.

Most seabirds die at sea, their weightless bones pulverized by the waves, so it is unusual to find such a specimen. Was this young bird swept off course by a storm, then washed ashore? Was she unable to find food in warming coastal waters? A causality of the fall migration?

I walk away and leave her to rest in the sand, salt and wind – assured that time will see to the slow work of wearing away any part of her that is left, rubbing its powerful thumb across the fingertips of its own magnificence.