FROM THE ARCHIVES: REPORT FROM THE BEACH, 12 DECEMBER 1998



Where I live, the sounds of the night are romantic and consoling —
trains and waves.  The coastal tracks run by about a mile and a half from
me, but over the silence of the cultivated fields the trains sound very
clearly after dark.  Late at night long freights roll through endlessly,
the soft clacking punctuated by occasional organ-note whines from the
diesel horn.


The waves are continual, of course, and low — sometimes you need to
strain to hear them.


But tonight they were thunderous — they kept breaking into my
consciousness as I worked at the computer.  When I realized I had to go
out for milk, I couldn’t help walking down to the beach to see what was
going on.


This gave me a chance to examine the Christmas lights on my street, very intense in the misty air — and only strung on the simplest houses, the ones owned by the oldest residents.



As I approached the beach it sounded as though the waves were crashing
right into the houses facing the ocean, but they weren’t.  The tide was
rather far out and the waves were breaking in long explosions of foam
across the whole length of the beach — something they very rarely do.
Either the bottom has shifted and regularized or the winter swells are
so large they bring waves that just override the bars.


There was a very light haze circling the whole horizon, and low down to
it.  To the northwest, the haze made the lights of Ventura sparkle —
they looked exactly like the Christmas lights on my street.  Far out at
sea, oil platforms showed their lights just as festively, and a fishing
boat with lights running up its tall net booms was anchored just
outside the entrance to the harbor, probably waiting for the tide to
lift it over the bar there.




Above the ring of the mist the sky was crystaline, thick with stars.
The first time I glanced up a shooting star burst like a rocket — so
big and bright that it looked like milk being spilled from a glass.
More shooting stars exploded as often as I gazed up.


Milk — of course.  Then back home, drinking egg nog laced with very
good Brandy.

The waves seem even louder now, as the tide comes in . . .
as though they’re breaking on the walls of houses just a few hundred
yards away.

It’s a call that always repays answering.

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