Andrew Buckley: The Uneventful

The clip-clop of these work boots always catches my attention. I heard it the other day and thought, that’s funny. I don’t ever recall ever hearing that over the past few months since I bought them. It would be outdoors. Not running. Typically on concrete or stone.

Of course, then I realized the soles were cold. They had lost their bounce, and so sounded more like clogs on the hard winter surfaces. Or an old time radio show special effects version of footsteps.

And I never heard this inside. Or in the fall.

Yes, there have been periods of cold, I thought, as I was parked at the overlook at Lighthouse Beach. After all, I still needed to run the truck periodically while parked just to stay warm. But there was a sound missing too.

The scratchy-crunch of walking on sand-covered pavement. To be sure, it is impossible on Cape Cod not to find the edges of pavement invaded by sand from the loam that covers much of this place. More so when at the beach like I was. But this a more notable absence.

No sand spread on our roads, on our sidewalks. At this writing, it is the middle of February and we have had no need to plow the road on which I live. From behind the steering wheel of this parked pickup, looking out at the dunes below me and the harbor, barrier beach and ocean beyond, I considered a winter of lost opportunities for mayhem.

It has been cold, certainly. Cold enough for snow. Just never at the right time. If the typical pattern is snow, then a cold snap to freeze it all, then a warm up with rain to wash much of it away, we’ve missed a step. Rain and then immediate freeze. And it seems only we’ve been getting this.

New York and DC have had more of a snowfall than us. Our proximity to the Gulf Stream is playing a part, no doubt.

Thanks to Facebook, I have been getting regular reminders of what storms have hit at this time last year, three years ago, or well before. This seems to be the difference, as we’ve been spared real ferocity so far. Yet the outer beach at low tide looks much closer to Lighthouse Beach this morning. At high tides it has been barely a thread of yellow running left to right in front of me amidst the deep blue.

It lengthens, like pulled taffy, and broadens under the water, thus narrowing the harbor. Perhaps a serious winter storm or two might have moved enough sand overnight to shoal up the channel, as the tidal flow slacks and shifts to the new outlet across from Minister’s Point in North Chatham.

Perhaps a spring nor’easter or two might come along, as usual, to dramatically shift the shoreline and alter our boating and swimming patterns this summer, yet again.

February is the slack time, to ponder such things and more. The sound of one’s footsteps on the cold, hard, bare street. It is a period of absence. Scarcity. Want. Loss. No leaves left on the trees. No green in the grass. We are so poor now, we cannot even afford snow.

Having left the truck, Bash coming out on his harness, leash and plaid flannel dog jacket, we descended the stairs to the beach. The west wind was slack here, blocked by the bluff. Along the water’s edge, he tested it, but this southern hound’s blood kept him back. We proceeded along, down to the dune shack where he sniffed about briefly.

It was 29 degrees, but there was something about the beach that felt so much warmer. Surely it had frozen solid during that deep cold snap in January. And yet, it felt like it had shaken it off. Bash and I continued along to a newly exposed sandbar that was jutting out into the channel and toward the island between us and the Atlantic.

We were standing on it. The only event we could point to of any consequence this winter. Completely composed of grains of sand, not too different from that missing from the parking lot.

Bash found a piece of seaweed to chew on. I stepped carefully, the rising tide diminishing our new peninsula bit by bit, and looked out at the surf crashing on the outer bar. It seemed from our point of view to be actually above our horizon – an ocean in the sky.

Then with soundless footfalls on the wet shore, we passed other walkers crossing our path. We had found our one novelty, our legacy of the winter so far. Not too much longer to get back to the truck, and warmth was waiting.