Saturday, September 29, 2012

River Beach

Behind us is a long dike, running for miles: open grassy country, a little bleak. The bluff falls to the beach, and where it reaches the sand, runs into a thicket of blackberry. The September sun is low, and the blackberry casts a shadow far out into the sand. We sit in its shade and watch the river.

A long straight line of ragged silver pilings runs out into the river on our left. Martha tells me it's where the log booms used to tie up.

The wind is stiff and the river is alive with sailboats. We talk idly of getting a boat – what sort of boat? Motor or sail? We haven't been out on the river since Ernie's death, and to talk of boats is to defy mortality. I wonder if we'll ever get one. In the back yard, under a tarp, is the old dinghy, which has moved everywhere with us, and which we have put in the water exactly once. It's moldering away, and I even made so bold, this Spring, as to suggest that we finally get rid of it. No.

It's a strange, barren beach, north of the airport, looking across to Washington State. I'm not sure why we go there. It's not a beautiful place, and the beaches are littered with broken glass, cigarette butts and detritus; it's nearly as bad as a beach on the East Coast. Airplanes roar up from the airport and over our heads. The people who come to this beach are not the people who hike up the gorge: they're immigrants, or working class kids looking for a party, generally with an escort of big, untrained, but good-natured dogs, who plunge into the chilly water, chasing sticks. Not the sort of place your Nature Conservancy or Audubon Society people go.

Three Mexican men fish from the beach that's built up against the pilings. Their rods are too far away to see except when they catch the exact angle to reflect the sun at us: then they flash into existence for a moment, wands of brilliant light, and disappear again.

Gulls, cormorants, ospreys. Bald eagles come here at times, but not today. But as we're leaving we see a hawk, or an eagle, that baffles us. Too bulky for an osprey, wrong color for a redtail. And it's fishing. Could it possibly be an immature golden eagle? We can't decide.

We'd worn our bathing suits under our clothes, in the faint hope that we might warm up enough to find the idea of swimming attractive. Not a chance. But we watched the sailboats, the birds, the plunging dogs. It was a good day. The good weather has stayed long past its time, and for all the sun, and the bareness of Mt Hood – who ought to be in her new brilliant white winter coat by now – it feels nothing like summer. There's an uneasiness to the air and to the water. Sound won't hang properly in the air.

We walked slowly back, picking up some of the larger shards of glass, and fragments of styrofoam packing, and dropping them into a cloth bag as we went. The instinct to pack out more than you pack in is pretty entrenched in us, even here, where of course there will never be a clean beach again.

October comes soon.


Steven Cain said...


rbarenblat said...

What a beautiful post this is. Filled with the bittersweet poignancy of autumn, for me. Autumn and broken glass and low-angled light.

Zhoen said...

As you tell this, I sit at the edge of the Detroit River, at the foot of East Grand Blvd. A park, concrete right up to water, cars parked with drivers still inside. I'm 17, on my bike, and I chat (uncharacteristically,) idly, with an old guy fishing - rather hopelessly I thought. It's cold, and the water isn't pretty, moves more up and down than through.

No matter, the lack of esthetics doesn't change the power of so much river, a bit of open sky in a city without a sky for months at a time.

carolee said...

so beautiful.

Dale said...

Thanks, all!