Look, I want to love this world
As though it?s the last chance I?m ever going to get
To be alive
And know it.
~ Mary Oliver
We received our instructions for Operation Marina Dunes Rendezvous and arrived, each by our own route, at the Marina Dunes RV Park with the necessary supplies for a night of undercover operations: van, down comforters, picnic dinner, hammock, wing suit, guitar, and a 6-pack of Coors Light. After setting up base camp we went off trail to the wide westfacing swath of beach and headed north, seeking a sheltered lookout to spy on the sunset.
En route we ran into our first foreign agent:
Nicknames: Sand Dollar, Pansy Shell, Sea Cookie or Snapper Biscuit ~ these are more commonly seen dead than alive, their tests (or skeletons) left to bleach white in the sun. This one was alive, purple as a bruise and incapacitated above the tide line. We were able to approach it and pick it up and turn it over and over.? We used our binoc eyes see the cilia moving the spines of the living creature in subtle waves in an attempt to burrow into the beach. We marveled at the miracle and then tossed it back into the waves thinking it would be free from marauding gulls.
A few steps later we saw two, then four, then dozens of them scattered out just under the foam lipped tide line on the beach.
Some were working their way back in?
Others were serving as foreign relations ambassadors?.
We walked on, now aware of the breadth of life underfoot in the sand. We received flight lessons from the pelicans, who not only use the ground effect* to skim over the surface of the water but also use high pressure air waves off the curling breakers to surf the air above the waves. We felt well prepared for our wing suit exercises later that evening. A few paces further we found a perch set back from beach traffic and set up our field camp, succeeding in the first mission requirement: ensure the sun set on time and was thoroughly enjoyed in the process.
Walking home in the dark, the sand dollars gone, we surveyed a nearby resort and wide-eyed watched the stars. Arriving at base camp we took a Coors and campfire song break before commencing with our final undercover operations for the night. More evening entertainment was provided by the raccoons scampering up and down nearby trees and shaking the branches above our spy-van. As we settled in, a Great Horned Owl pair whoo-hoo?d us to sleep. A successful night in all, we were left with the lesson of the horizon of the beach and the slow disappearing act of the sand dollars into it ~ the mystery of the world living 6 inches below our footsteps.
On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it as slowly
as the actual stars cross heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and, as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity, they sank down
into the mud, faded down
into it and lay still, and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.
~ Galway Kinnell
*ground effect is the increased lift and decreased drag that an aircraft’s wings generate when they are close to a fixed surface.