Alaskan shorelines at sunset are an impressionist’s palette of pastels, grey and blue and ivory and cream and gold, running silvery trickling rivulets through silty tidal wash and up through millions of soft rounded stones, a hundred hues of grey, black, blue green, caramel, red and white. The last few moments of the sun’s rays flood slight color changes against the clouds, pale rose, creamy orange, then a softening, a darkening, and the night shadows take the sun’s place against the clouds, lingering over the water, darkening all to dim-lit dusk.
Perhaps there is something of my childhood in my love of exploring shorelines, as I spent many happy summer days splashing in the surf off North Padre Island and Mustang Island near Corpus Christi, discovering the Portuguese Man o’War, Gulf coast tar lumps and sand dollars which washed up on the beach. I remember the sting of salt in my eyes, the sharp taste of it on my tongue, but most of all, the heavy crash of the waves against my body as I ran out into the water to meet them. How the froth slammed into my small form, the push and pull of the strong waves, and my own small strength pushing and pulling against it. I remember standing on high piers in the sunshine, where the fishermen would set their long poles, and I would look out over the water and watch out for sharks, which I was convinced swam impatiently around the pylons below me. Sometimes my father would take me horseback riding on Mustang Island along the sands, the horses would walk along the water’s edge, and I remember the jolting rhythm in the saddle, my shoes wedged into the stirrups, my knees pressing desperately against the sides of the horse. How disappointed I was to read the sign of posted rules, which clearly stated that No one is to run the horses on the beach. So we walked the horses, in staid, genteel tempo. It felt extravagant and adventurous nonetheless, because the experience itself was precious in its rarity.
I am drawn to the edges of things, and often find myself in my travels facing a horizon lined with waves and sky, staring down the sunset until the colors of the sky meld into the colors of the water and it all gently becomes an indigo night. As I linger on the edges of my environment, I muse over the edges of my internal world, considering in which direction to go next. These liminal spaces, the borderlands between the stability of the fixed purpose and the restless pull of curiosity, draw me again and again. They are a place of dreams and memory and vision, a place to wonder and hope and sometimes just to wait out the sadness, which also comes in waves, some more powerful than others. When this complex feeling, full of drifting thoughts, possibilities and the ache of yearning, brings me back to the water’s edge, I could sit for hours before a driftwood fire, listening to the crash of high tide, watching the clouds shift their colors, the scent of woodsmoke filling my clothes and stinging my eyes, as I, lost in suggested worlds and humbled by a future so immense and full of change, ponder the shifting, wayward coastlines of my own soul.