Clafin Landing. Seven AM.
I'm sitting in the cold, damp sand, staring out into the fog, allowing the sand fleas to flay my skin one microscopic nibble at a time, punishing myself like some damned soul self-consigned to one of the outer and more amenable circles of hell for the sin of literary laziness.
There's a young woman back up on the beach behind me. She's blonde, leggy, deeply tanned, in a sun-faded sweatshirt and shorts. She's backed a battered Chevy Suburban onto the sand, propped open one of the back doors with a gray as stone oar, and unpacked and stacked several large and battered metal coolers and crates, a couple of long-handled dip nets, and a clam rake. At the moment she's sitting in the bed of the Suburban, her back against the closed door, her right foot propped up against the inside of the side window, her left leg dangling over the bumper, her foot swinging gently, her toes skimming the sand. She's settled in to wait for something or someone, a change in the weather, a lifting of the fog, a friend to come along to take her out or to come back in to unload the morning catch into her coolers and crates. She's a picture waiting to be painted or photographed and if I didn't think she was aware of me pretending not to spy on her or if I was bolder I'd reach for my camera.
And I'm mad at myself for that.
Not for wanting to take her picture. For wanting to do it instead.
Instead of writing her picture.
And I was already mad at myself for being mad at myself for a lack of boldness not reaching for camera earlier. Hour ago, shortly after I started out, I passed a church where a major renovation is being done. Carpenters had been at work since dawn, I'm guessing, since it was time for a coffee break. Maybe these two were just having trouble getting their motors going. Doesn't matter. What matters is that there were two guys on a bench in front of the church, one in his twenties, the other pushing fifty, both dark-haired, sharp-chinned, could have been father and son. They were sitting side by side, slumped and huddled, paper cups held lightly in their dangling hands, staring forlornly with heavy, tired eyes at nothing in front of them, while a third man, in his thirties, larger, beefier, brighter-eyed, slid a ten foot ladder onto a rack in the back of a pick-up. And at one point the two men on the bench looked sideways at the third man and their shared expression of mingled annoyance and disgust at the third man's industry was hilarious. If I'd been bolder and quicker and equipped with a better camera I'd have had a great picture, and all the way out here I was sulked with disappointment at not having taken that picture.
The thing is that once upon a time I'd have walked away from those men happy to have an amusing entry for the notebook. Once upon a time I'd have been sitting here on the beach cheerfully at work at describing the young woman and her gear and her SUV. Yeah, I know, I am at work at doing just that. (For the second time, actually, since I didn't bring my computer with me to the beach. I'm typing up the notes I made with pen on paper.) This is a notebook entry of the kind I am mad at myself for not writing. So what's my problem, you ask?
My problem is that I'm not content with writing it out. I still want those photographs. In fact, I'm fighting the temptation to take one now, and losing the fight.
What if I pretend to take a picture of something else? That naturally arranged artistic pile of seaweed, for example.
No. Can hardly see her, can you?
Damn. I'm weak.
But you see what I mean? A telephoto lens would be just the ticket...
Sorry. I'll go back to feeding myself to the sand fleas and staring out at the nothing that is the fog. There are gulls out there, invisible in the fog, making mournful croaking noises and one of them, I swear, is crying, "Help me! Help me! Help me!"