Only meters removed from the malls and crowds, the beach at Crystal Cove beckoned with a different possibility. It has long been a favorite of mine, a magical walk that gives me great pleasure to share with Catharine and close friends. I generally prefer company, so it felt strange to find myself walking alone past the distinctive, renovated bungalows; unaccompanied save for a few fellow walkers, sea birds and my scattered thoughts.
I waded through the shore break on the early, Black Friday morning, allowing the chilly water to reach my knees. Bands of straw-colored seaweed wrapped around my calves and I could feel countless grains of sand swirling past me. On a cool, cloudless morning, I felt invigorated and unleashed.
This stretch of beach can be a never-ending source of activity during pre-winter: sailboats, sea gulls and early, migrating California Gray whales are atop my list of favorite sights. On this particular day, I could even tolerate the whirl of distant traffic heading into the shops beyond.
The rugged cliffs that separate the beach from the intrusions of the highway seem dry and taciturn at first glance. If one takes the time to study them a bit more carefully, the plants that cling tenaciously to the rocky face form a community. They protect the thin layer of soil from erosion and provide a safe haven and food source for small mammals, birds and insects.
Although just beyond human habitation, this beach environment can be harsh and forbidding. Only a few species tolerate the combination of wind, sand, salt and scarcity of water and call it home. Imagine yourself living at the seashore indefinitely without shelter, food and water.