I had originally thought of driving across the Golden Gate and up the coast, past Muir Woods and along the high cliffs above Stinson Beach, but I could see that the storm had trapped great banks of billowing fog just north of the Golden Gate so chose instead to drive through San Rafael to Samuel Taylor State park and then on the beach. My hope was that we could first walk in the woods by Devil's Gulch near the salmon stream where trees are lush with moss and the air rich with the aroma of bay leaves. I'm not all that fond of driving through thick fog and knew if we went overland by the time we reached the coast, passing through forests and driving over rolling hills and past grazing cows, the fog would thin to a more gentle mist.
And it did . . . somewhat. The forest was as lovely as I had first imagined it would be -- richly green with only wisping fog, delicate on exposed skin. Due to budget cuts, the park is officially 'closed,' but hiking is till allowed. We walked easily along the still well-maintained trail, watching red-tail hawks circling above grassy slopes, and then moving again under the forest canopy, we were surprised by a young deer bounding through the ferns and across the stream. It was the second deer we saw that morning – the first had wandered across a crowded urban street in San Rafael.
When we arrived at Drake's Bay, fog still clung to the coast, making walking on the beach a glorious pleasure. I may dislike driving in fog, but walking through it on a deserted beach feeds both skin and spirit. My body felt easily and delicately connected to both sky and land, and with every step, I entered into a graceful dance with the sea.
We were alone on the beach and walked its length, stepping easily around the mounds of seaweed brought ashore by the early morning high tide. As we walked, I told Lu of the great slabs of sedimentary rock crisscrossed with fossils, sometimes visible but today buried beneath the hard packed sand. I love the radical changes of the seashore.
That the sea can move tons of sand onto or off a beach, sometimes overnight, opens my world. If the sea can do that, I think (perhaps irrationally) it just might be possible for equally sudden yet even more beautiful changes to happen in the human world. The sea acts in concert with the season -- currents shifting, tides rising, as the earth tilts, but certainly we humans react as strongly to our own tidal shifts. We bury reminders of a beautiful past as suddenly as the sea conceals the fossils of another age, and just as suddenly, we can brush aside the dust, the sand, the smoke, the pain that masks the beauty, conceals the hope. I want to believe that anyway.
As Monday's storm had rushed river mud into coastal waters, the breaking waves were tinted a pinkish rust, and that color hemmed the silver shimmer of the sea with playful lace. I apologize to those who might be annoyed at such a fragile description of this reality, but I have difficulty discovering words to describe what I felt as I walked through that fog with the sea drawing away from the shore and the sky slitting back to blue. I know it will sound silly if I say my body stretched from the beach to the horizon until every cell, every molecule, every atom mingled with those of the lifting fog, but that is the case. I was emptied, but I was full.
When the sun began to slice apart the rich silver track of fog, I was back on earth, walking past the cliffs, watching two sea lions lifting their heads above the swell, recalling a day months ago when the beach near the lighthouse was packed with mother sea lions barking to their newborns who chirped and whistled like forest birds. Then, the park rangers had to stand guard over the large male who had chosen a strip of sand just feet from the busy parking lot as the perfect place for a days-long nap. Now, that parking lot is empty, the cafe closed. Most of the sea lions have gone out to sea. No park rangers anywhere, but the land still sings.