March 2016 - PB An Artist Journal By the Sea W

Even a few inches of rain in San Diego this winter brings vistas of Wild Sunflowers growing all along the edge of the marsh at Mission Bay.  The yellow flower fields contrast nicely against the marsh, which has turned greener from the rains, too.  Years of drought have finally passed & the wild flowers are returning with a vengeance as if nature is drunk on the water sinking into her earth.  Purple finches hop from branch to branch chirping happily in the thicket of flowers which have sprung up.  Doves seem to be everywhere now, too.  I hear them softly coo-cooing all day long. 

This year as I drive by the bay I spot hundreds of black birds sitting on the beach.  Looking them up in a bird guide, I realize they are Black Skimmers & I rush back with my camera.  Slowly walking up to the flock, stepping carefully around thousands of Moon jellyfish, which have washed up I can hardly keep myself from jumping up & down with excitement.  There are hundreds of Black Skimmers calling softly with their “grunt-grunt” while they walk back & forth getting ready to settle down for the night as the sun sets.  There are also hundreds of Elegant Terns with their higher pitched song, too.  I go back often to view the Black Skimmers, which have beaks that look like they are broken, but longer bottom bill lets them fly above the water to scoop up fish.  Photos I take don’t often capture their black eyes, which seem to disappear into their black as night head feathers, but their bright red-orange beaks always steal the spotlight anyway. 

The bay is a lovely spot and is landscaped with many different kinds of palms.  Some palms are like tall skyscrapers & these touch-the-sky palms are separate and alone, but planted in rows & rows around San Diego they form a community. In storms these palms swaying back & forth are an indicator of just how strong the wind is.  Often it seems as if they will just lift off & fly away.  After a winter rainstorm, the streets and yards are littered with thorny palm leaves 10 feet long and people make piles and piles of them on all the curbs.  The tall palms being lashed by the wind make me think of a crow’s nest on a ship.  .  I like that kind of space.  Another kind of palm grows tightly clumped together like a family who can’t break away from each other no matter what.  There are also majestic palms that grow solidly alone with wide, thick trunks & lush draping leaves that could almost be a thatched roof.  Perhaps these majestic palms are the kings & queens in the world of palm trees watching over their subjects? The leaves on palm trees make the perfect place for birds to nest & they are often homes to rats, too.  San Diego streets and beaches are lined with rows & rows of tall palms.  Somehow these rows of palms seem sacred like the aisle in a church or a celebration of great honor on a parade route.  I think of Greek gods & vessels of wine.

Walking the beach at a minus tide I find a red kelp crab washed up.  The crab is not very damaged so I have the opportunity to view & photograph this crab close up.  The underside of the crab has a beautiful mottled pattern, while the top has white polka dots.  On my way back from my walk all that is left of the crab are a few legs!  I guess the gulls had crab for lunch today along with their lobster because there are more than 40 lobsters on the beach, too.  The sea gulls squabble with each other over the choicest ones. 

This year’s El Nino winter seems to have caused even more sand than usual to erode out to sea & there are rocks exposed I’ve never seen before.  The exposed rocks have a bounty of shells caught in all the crevices.  Frog shells & large Wavy Turban shells are a real find any day.  One day right in the middle of the beach I spot a gigantic Pismo clam shell still hinged together.  The shell is thick and strong and it still shows where the clam was attached.  Perhaps a gull had clam with their crab meal?  But the real find today is two, yes two! San Diego Scallop shells arranged by the sea on a clump of seaweed better than any decorator could have done.  These shells are extremely rare to find.  I recently read that is because they do not reside in the tide pools near shore, but live at a deeper depth further out to sea.  San Diego Scallop shells are very flat with the grooves in their shells squared off instead of round & smooth like other Scallop shells.  I spot a much worn rock with holes in it that looks like a heart.  Someone has taken the time to stack some of the cobblestones into small cairns.  Like a Bower bird, I fill my pockets with shells while others pile cobblestones into beach art.  We join nature’s song of creation, too.  Beauty from the sea comes in all shapes and sizes. 

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