Flat calm, the Pacific is like an oily mirror sprinkled with kelp and sea otters. Disgusted surfers sit on truck tailgates, angry the waves are gone, boasting of past rides. Hollow boasts, fading tans, white and yellow blonde heads.
A noisy blue and white Scrub Jay hops along, looking for anything to eat. We keep pace for a while, but he flies off to the East.
Fifteen brown Pelicans skim the horizon barely above the water, Carmel coastal surveillance. Chain link fences guard empty lots where venerable houses stood. Greed and renovation knocked them down and blew them away. Now only a hole here and there, mute testimony to time and chance.
A pickup truck comes from behind, rattling with age, held together by tape. I do not turn, the Spanish radio station tells me it is a day laborer heading for a seven o’clock appointment with minimum wage. I smell the smoke from his exhaust.
Other walkers come toward me, each heading for something, getting somewhere. The slow strollers are as earnest as the fast ones. There is a stream now, most coming from the point, and half way to their turn-around in town on Ocean Avenue. It’s the look, the determination that carries them forward.
I pass a large stone and steel house, the one that took years to finish. Two large dogs bark from the safety of their living room couch, making sure I know that they see me and disapprove. The plate glass window muffles their voices. I wave. One dog stops barking.
I pass the Frank Lloyd Wright house on the right, the ocean side of the way, and am overcome by the stink of sulfur from fields of rotting Bull Kelp ten feet below on the beach. It all seems logical, and I walk faster.
Ahead the barricade and a sign say the road is closed. I walk through the small diamond-shaped warning, looking at the way that the ocean has undercut the right edge of the asphalt. Silent houses of great value face the road, wondering if they will also fall in. It’s a long way down to the ocean from here. I wish them well.
The road makes a sharp left here, Dead Man’s Curve they call it, since it’s barely one lane wide and traffic is supposed to go both ways. Makes for an exciting trip on a foggy morning. Not today, the barriers will save a life or at least a fender of a rental car.
I look at the small crescent shaped beach below, strewn with gnarled driftwood, wondering if it will go back to the sea at high tide. There are a couple hundred seagulls resting on the sand, fog bathing I suppose.
Passing the state park now I resist the temptation to go in, to look at the beach. I have places to go, deadlines to meet. I move on, pick up the pace, and smile at a couple of dogs with masters coming toward me.
It may be my imagination but I think I see a little blue mixed with the steely gray skies overhead. Maybe the fog will lift, just maybe.
It’s been 45 minutes, three miles, more than two hundred million dollars in real estate, and I am back at the car. I press the key fob and the doors open with a soft click. Older dogs are getting help from their older masters, hesitantly, painfully jumping into cars.
I sit down on a rock facing the water and for the first time reflect on the day ahead but more importantly the time just past.
My crabbiness is gone.