There was one glorious day of sunshine.
It was our last day. Tammy asked me where I wanted to go. “East Point?” I said. I wasn’t sure what was even there, except a lighthouse. And I had seen other lighthouses, and maybe they were all the same after awhile. But it was too nice a day to stay indoors, and with any luck there would be a beach, and there would definitely be water and sunshine and fresh air. We took off with two other family friends, Lan and Minh, and Lucy, Tammy’s Sheltie. Lucy is an older dog with arthritis and cancer, and she is a good traveling companion. I miss having dogs—not as much as cats, but I grew up with dogs, and Lucy is a very good dog.
It didn’t take long to get to our destination. I grew up near a river, and water makes me happy, but there is nothing like the sight of boundless ocean to ground and heal me. (Technically it’s the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but you know.) I took photos of the water and the boats at work, but mostly I enjoyed the air and the sound of water. I was high up from the waves, and from certain positions I was able to pretend that the rest of everything was gone, no other people, no buildings, just me at the end of the world. It was a kind of peace that I didn’t even know I needed until it came to me.
Unlike the other lighthouses I saw on the island, the East Point lighthouse is a tourist destination, complete with gift shop and garish signs. (And you know what I think of that.) So I took some pictures of the structure but didn’t go inside. Other cars pulled up, and people with enormous lenses and tripods began to shoot commanding views of the water. I walked away from the others in my group, toward an area of tall grasses in front of a stand of trees that had been pummeled from the sea winds.
And then a fox came out. At first it just trotted around, and I took its photo, amazed that it allowed me to get this close, even though it was obviously used to tourists. Soon enough, it got in a staring contest with our Lucy. Our Lucy, she of the advanced age and the sore joints and the cancer.
Time stopped, in a way that none of us could have expected. It’s one thing to dissolve into the view of water endlessly crashing into rocks, and quite another to watch two animals locked in silent communication. Both scenes are nature, free of human interference, but during those moments while we waited, all the water-induced peace vanished and tension arose. I wished you were there to see it with me. I hoped Lucy would be okay. I wanted one of the animals to swish a tail and make the first move. My heartbeat was loud and insistent. Did Tammy call Lucy and try to get her to come out of the trance? I don’t even know. I went down on my haunches and shot into the sunlight, trying not to startle either Lucy or the fox, channeling the part of me that watches nature documentaries and hoping that one of the shots would turn out all right.
Then they took off. I don’t remember which one twitched first, but the fox took off through the grasses and into the thicket of windbent Seussian trees. Lucy followed with a speed and agility that I could never have imagined I’d see, racing through the brush after the fox. Tammy called for Lucy to come back, but the trees were silent. Somehow she didn’t panic, and we four humans walked down a trail that ran perpendicular to the trees, slowly enough that Lucy would find us if she came out. I tried to remember what I knew about foxes, dogs, foxhunts, and rabies. It was a mishmash of trivia that didn’t matter at all unless Lucy was okay.
And then she was. She trotted back out from the thicket, the fox nowhere to be seen, and joined us on our walk down to the beach. No sign of a limp, and her happy Sheltie smile was intact. Tangles of blackened seaweed on the path attracted flies, and the water grew louder. Nowhere had there been a sign that said No Trespassing, but neither had there been one that said This Way to Beach, either. From the worn path it was obvious that many had gone before us, so I followed along, bringing up the rear.
I have seen black sand beaches, green sand beaches, and plenty of white sand beaches, but this was my first red sand beach. Compelling and different, especially that day, when the rocks around me were illuminated by full sunshine, when the sky and water were so boldly blue. Tammy took off for a long walk with Lucy, Lan selected pebbles from along the shoreline, and Minh sat on a broad rock and watched wave after wave. I took a few photos from far away, keeping everyone small against the umber and blue, and then sat on some rocks myself so that I could be in the moment. Part of me wanted to stay until the sun went down. It was an unexpected idyll.
Tammy showed me the stones she’d collected from her own walk with Lucy, whose fox-forest secrets we will never know. Tammy is an accomplished jewelry maker and her handful of stones were well selected, some for aesthetics and some just for the way they felt in her hand. I bent down and picked up a dozen or so tiny shells and a handful of red sand, and then hiked back up the rocks and along the trees, wondering about the fox and walking slowly enough to keep from losing a single shell.
I came back to the car and let my eyes linger on the view a little longer. I tried to tell myself that if I lived amid such beauty I would never take it for granted, but those are the kinds of promises I can’t keep. It might be why I’ve moved around so often, trying to keep my eyes fresh. I can’t move house the way I used to, but I can do this much, sometimes, and open my eyes so wide I can feel it in my spine. And I can share it with you, of course. That helps.
(Sorry this was so late… there were just so many photos it was overwhelming.)