Have you ever loved a place so much you actually cheer “Hello!” when you get there and sigh, ‘Good bye, thanks so much’ as you glance in the rearview mirror heading home? Have you ever ached to be there when you were far away? The tip of Cape Cod is just such a place for me. Some sixty thousand people travel by boat, car or plane to reach this peninsula in the summer. These photographs were taken during lovely February, bitter March, and cheery April visits. The tourists were long gone, or yet to come. March ‘comes in like a lion and out like a lamb,’ renewal is due but hasn’t arrived. The sun yields a little warmth, inspiring the first hope that winter is about to depart. It is the perfect time for solitude and photographs.
Despite my expectation one bitter morning, the beach isn’t desolate. I arrive before dog and human footprints mark their route but a bevy of ducks is bobbing and fluttering near the shore. Seagulls’ prints lace the sand with their webbed design and the wind is always drawing. There are circular dune grass strokes and the design in the sand of tumbling. Seaweed, driftwood, debris and detritus both human and oceanic, scurry in the wind, imprinting their passage. There are the watermarks designed by the surge, layer upon layer going in the direction of the tide, whichever way that is. Every pattern is a combination of the force and delicacy of air and water. The sand proves to be a perfect canvas.
There are traditions of sand painting: Native Americans in the Southwestern United States, Buddhist monks in Tibet, Aborigines in Australia and Holy Christian traditions around the world. Here, sand blows, moves by grain or by dune. Any art of this material will move too, so intentionally in the practice of impermanence.
As I walked I saw Tide Writing. The beach became a long scroll. Dotted on the shore were poems, a short story, love letters, Haiku, and prayer. They were written in the moment just prior to my arrival.My son asked years ago when he was three, “Where does the water go?” as we strolled out over the low tide sand along the bay. “I have no idea,” was my startled reply. It never occurred to me to even ask. That darn gravity pulls so many things. The earth and the moon are in a celestial tug of war, while lamps crash and balls and leaves fall to the ground. The same force brought the feather floating from the back of one of the ducks.
Who knew that seaweed and sand held such an array of colors? A pebble: an exclamation mark or a period? What story unfolds as you look at the textures, read the text in the sand? Is it a love story? A tale of death alone one night in a storm? A dance number? Each tale is about the absolute certainty of change. Some nights are restless, some days a deluge in storm, some sweet in tranquility. All I know for sure is that never again will the same story be written; never another photograph just like this one. And there is no time for sorrow. The rhythm of these tides is relentless.