Down at the cut, beyond the banks of the sullen, dark-flowing river and its silent, receptive bay, silt-heavy waters tumble and settle into the ocean’s spilling froth.
Anchored by chains of sea-grass, dunes drag and shift in the wind, while along a sepentine ribbon of hard, reflective sand, treasures abound. Portuguese Men of War, sargassum weed and a sea bean or two lie covered in spume. Shells and echoes of shells move in tandem with the waves - angel wing, bay scallop, lightening whelk and coquina – often worn, more often broken after crossing the bars which parallel the coast.
When the tide recedes and sandbars lie exposed, less common treasures invite a second look – sand dollars, an embossed candle, sea-glass in shades of pistachio and almond. One day I noticed a bit of amethyst flashing in the sunlight – a tiny dot of brilliant, intense color. Assuming a shard of plastic or a broken fishing lure, I bent, and saw the truth. It was a shell – a tiny, perfect snail. (more…)
It was, as they say, a ritual. Sunday meant church, a change of clothes and a relaxed dinner. Sometimes it meant football and other times a bit of yard work but always, if the weather allowed, it meant a drive in the country.
Even without a visit to nearby grandparents, there were excuses to be out and about. There was growing corn that needed checking, bittersweet to be cut from the ditches, fresh gravel to be tested. In spring, we looked for the first robin. In autumn, the last leaves swirled and scudded like vast, colorful clouds while we counted the bundles of snow fence waiting along the shoulders of the road. “They’ve got more fence out than usual,” my dad would say. “Must be expecting a hard winter.”
On the rare afternoons when corn, cattails or bittersweet failed to entertain, we’d read the Burma Shave signs or “collect” out-of-state license plates. There went “Minnesota”, a common enough sight. Here came “Illinois”, a reminder of far-away relatives. “But look!” I squealed from the back seat. “Montana!” We might as well have discovered a Bedouin galumphing through Iowa on his camel. (more…)
Stitching its way through the fabric of my world, Clear Creek draws together water and sky, grasses and trees into patterns of exquisite beauty. Traversing coastal Texas on an oft-hidden journey toward Clear Lake, its tangled flow provides a miles-long haven for wildlife and birds. Emerging from the lake, it tautens and slows, rising and falling in rhythm with inland-creeping tides until it eases into the open waters of the bay, diluting the ocean’s salty tang with the freshness of earthborn water.
Dredged into a channel at the entrance to Galveston Bay, the creek sometimes seems little more than a prop, a backdrop for tourist snapshots and Chamber of Commerce brochures. Nearly hidden behind a facade of interchangeable restaurants and bars, it no longer tastes of life on the water but feeds a growing appetite for profit. Weekend boat traffic is heavy. The boaters themselves tend to become loud and boisterous, demanding attention as they cruise past envious, land-locked crowds. Tossing popcorn and bread to equally raucous gulls, weekend visitors miss the silent tern, the motionless heron, the patient grebe, watching and waiting for them all to be gone. (more…)
I hadn’t meant to linger, but when Hazel caught me just outside the post office doors, there was nothing for it but to say good morning and fold up the to-do list. Like everyone in town, I knew the truth Hazel freely confessed. She came to the post office as much for the socializing as for stamps, and when she bumped into you, she expected to be humored.
That day, it was my turn. We covered her loss at the weekly domino party (“they cheated”), the small size of her figs (“not near enough rain”) and the relative merits of oilcloth versus paper table coverings at a picnic. She’d just begun dissecting the virtues and faults of her grand-daughter’s new boyfriend (“polite enough, but not much use on a tractor”) when a fellow I recognized but didn’t know by name parked his truck and ambled up the sidewalk.
Hazel fairly beamed. “Harlan!” she said. “Why aren’t you out with them cows?” Harlan just grinned. “Now, why would I be spendin’ time with a bunch of old cows when I can come here and spend time with you?” Turning my direction, Harlan touched the brim of his hat with a finger. “Mornin’, ma’am.”
Hazel always remembered her manners. “Have you met this young lady?” “I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure,” Harlan said. “I sure haven’t. We’ve howdied, but we ain’t shook yet. Pleased to meet you, ma’am.” The introductions made, we proceeded to shake hands, right then and there. (more…)