An Artist Watching Nature and Nature Watching an Artist

Posted by Elva Paulson / November 19, 2010

Elva’s Field Notes: An Artist Watching Nature and Nature Watching an Artist

It’s a beautiful day! Blue sky. Wet earth. Big leaf maples are a mix of greens, golds and browns. We are on our way to the coast. The sun is back!

We arrive at Charleston Harbor, a little fishing village, in time to buy shrimp cocktails for lunch. I brought veggies, fruit and crackers to go with. The sun hasn’t won its battle with the fog here. A soft grayness envelops the harbor and the pelicans perched on nearby pilings.

Heading to our favorite overlook for lunch we are sidetracked by long rays of light glimmering through thin fog and reaching into the depths of the thick coastal forest. The rays speak of mystery, magic, and comforting spirits. We savor this rare moment when the fog has thinned, and the sun sends long shafts of light into the greenery. Off in the distance we hear deep pounds – breakers hitting rocks. We came to the coast today because of the ‘high surf alert.’ Now that we are here I wonder if we’ll only hear the surf, not see it.

Normally our ears would be full of sea lions barking. Today water crashing on the rocks pounds out all but the highest gull shrieks. The outer reef at Shell Island shows as a hazy line of low, dark rocks. Plumes of white reach 50, 60, 70 feet into the soft fog. The huge waves have flattened the sand on the Shell Island’s beach, revealing peeks of solid bedrock, more rock than I believe we have ever seen on Shell Island’s beach. No sea lions on the beach, but a few have crawled onto the rocks to escape the surf. With the thin fog I didn’t try to count – maybe 100, heavy Stellar sea lions. The Stellars glow golden in the thin fog, lighter than the California sea lions.

End of day finds us back in Charleston Harbor boat basin, away from the roaring surf. Each gull’s call carries across the mellow boat basin. The sun is still trying to conquer fog, but only succeeds in giving a magical glow, bouncing soft yellow off a white fishing boat and the white head of a pelican. Two crabbers are on a nearby dock, just finishing up for the day. The man and woman collapse their crab pots, wind the ropes and fold up their camp chairs. He totes the heavy stuff on a luggage carrier, while she picks up a cooler, a chair, and their dog’s leash.

A seal swims by and then a cormorant. Both spend most of their time underwater, presumably fishing. The harbor is full. No boats go over the bar on a day like today. Any boat that didn’t come to harbor in time will wait it out farther out to sea.

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