Yesterday Ali and I went to the coast, to the river that feeds out onto Cannon Beach and into the ocean. Ali was there to send an offering to her dolphin.
The river’s not that deep, but it’s fast moving and it’s fucking cold. Ali had to cross it to get to the part of the coastline she wanted, so I stayed behind on one side, and she waded into the water holding her flower garland. I took photo after photo of her crossing, walking, becoming a tiny dot in my viewfinder. Then I focused my attention on the edges of the river.
The water carves right through the beach. There’s not a riverbank, but it doesn’t care, it just cuts right through the sand and makes one. Where the water laps at the edges, the sand gets carved away from underneath, until the weight of it is too much to bear, and it cracks and falls with a splash and gets reabsorbed by the water.
It seems sudden, but if you stand there for a few minutes, you can see the pattern, see which bits of sand and protruding further out. You can tell which are going to soon be too heavy to hold, and if you lock your eyes on one, you can eventually see the crack that starts appearing just before it falls.
So I was just standing there, watching these little pieces of sand break off and get smoothed over by the running water. I wanted to catch a photo of it happening. I could get the crack, the crack widening, but then the next frame was the chunk of sand splashing into the water. I wanted that one frame of the piece of sand still almost connected, the crack too wide to heal, but the sand not totally in the water. But it didn’t happen. Maybe some things you just can’t photograph. Too brief.
Eventually Ali came back, and I photographed her small body coming into view until it was standing in the river in front of me, looking tired and happy. We walked up and down the beach a little after that, the sun still low and the light warm, like a second sunrise.
Mostly I find myself falling in love with the endless expanse of ocean in front of me. I think about drifting off, and being surrounded on all sides by water, and above by sky. I let myself feel small, like I’m the tiny dot in the viewfinder. Things get quieter. But yesterday, I was just thinking about those cracks in the sand, the edges of the river breaking off. That moment I was trying to capture—separated, but still attached. Both sides trying to stay together, and the water just running out to sea.