Surf’s Up

When our phone rang this morning at 5:45, I knew it could only be one thing.  I listened to the recorded voice of the school superintendent announcing that, due to wind and water damage, Rockport schools would be closed.  With a sigh of relief, I called out the news to my daughter in the next room, and our whole family rolled over and went back to sleep.  My cell phone rang at 7:45, and I sat up in a panic, wondering how I could have slept so late.  It was our friend Ray,  just checking in to make sure we were alright; he had seen the morning news and heard how our town had no power, suffered severe wind damage, and was experiencing coastal flooding.

I headed downstairs for some coffee; we were one of the lucky houses in town that had electricity.  My husband and I looked out of various windows to try and see if our house or garden had been damaged; everything looked pretty normal.  We relaxed for a while, and I pulled myself together for a run.  I love it when we have this kind of weather, with the tides high and pounding the beaches, the wind whipping wildly, stirring sand, snapping branches, showing us who’s really the boss here on Cape Ann.  The thermometer read 42 degrees, so I didn’t have to bundle up too much.  I grabbed my Nike+iPod and my sunglasses, and headed out.

As I trotted by Old Garden Beach,  I looked out to the sea and gasped.  Waves that looked as if they had come straight from Hawaii rolled in toward the thumbnail sized shore; the water smashed into the sea wall and spouted up, over, and against the house that perches above the wall.  The water continued to flow, and as I ran by the concrete ramp that leads down to the beach, I saw the sea chasing driftwood and debris all the way to the top, dragging seaweed and sand up to the edge of the street.

I turned onto Dean Road, then South Street, keeping to the sidewalk, careful of the myriad of tree limbs, branches, and twigs that littered the path.  Underfoot was like a forest trail, with trips and pitfalls searching out my feet like wood trolls just waiting to catch me up.  I decided to run down the steep hill at the fork of Penzance Road and South Street, not trusting that Pebble Beach would be passable.  Loblolly Cove is a tiny, placid inlet that begins at the foot of the hill on Penzance.  This morning, it was a frothing, churning frenzy of surf smashing onto the shore.  Sea spray flew at me, coating my glasses enough so that I had to remove them to see ahead of me.  The remaining reeds growing in the marshes just beyond the cove had been completely mowed down by the wind; the damp ground at the edge of the road had, overnight, turned into a treacherous, murky pool that oozed over onto the pavement.

I reached the slight decline to Pebble Beach and stopped abruptly.  I turned off the music, pulled out the ear buds and watched in awe as tremendous waves, lit golden-green by a brilliant sun, reared up like wild horses and crashed over the beach and onto the road.  The battered, old wooden sign that warns drivers not to try to pass had been pulled over to block the entrance to the road by someone, but was being pushed aside by the mighty gusts coming from offshore.  No one was on the road, not a single car parked alongside the hedge of rocks marking the edge of the beach.  I could feel the salty spray from where I stood and it made me grin with excitement and joy.

I turned around and headed back on a different loop that would bring me out near Eden Road.  I careened onto Eden and began hopping puddles like crazy, anxious to see what the Twin Lights looked like in the wild waters of this morning.  I reached the look-out place and waves soared up over the rocky shoreline;  the sound of the water against the dark granite like wild applause at a marathon finish line.  Once again I felt ocean spray on my cheeks and lips and eyes; I removed my glasses and zipped them safely into my vest pocket.  As I turned away from the shore and headed back toward South Street, I saw several trees that had been uprooted lining the inland section of Eden Road.  I sprinted ahead, trying to see if the tree where I had seen the owl in the hollow was still standing.  It was.  The hollow was empty, but the tree was intact.  It was flanked on either side by two sad, downed soldiers, their branches gnarled and fractured from their falls.

I chose the long loop of Marmion Way to head home.  This morning the miles came easily, and I thought I would toss my gloves and glasses into the house and keep going.  My husband met me on the street; he had the camera and the scoop.  Our  chimney cap was gone, our grill had blow off of our porch, bounced off the hood of our car and landed in pieces in the driveway, and part of our fence had been blown down.  A few tree limbs had landed in the back yard, but our home did not suffer any significant damage.  I did toss my gloves and glasses, then continued downtown, ready for a few more miles and excited to check out Front and Back Beaches.  Townsfolk were roaming about aimlessly, watching the sea as it rose higher and higher in the harbor.  People were pointing out more uprooted trees and downed limbs; the excitement I felt surging through me as I watched the tail end of the storm blow itself through town was no longer just my own.  As I splurged up the hill on Main Street, the sun suddenly dropped behind a cloud, the wind rose up strong again, and rain and snow began to fall.  I could feel the temperature drop suddenly and decided I had had enough after all.  I looped through a shortcut and landed home in time for a second cup of coffee and a big bowl of hot oatmeal.

I was surprised to see that I had covered 7 1/2 miles in just over one hour.  As I wiped the snow from my lashes and caught my breath, I wondered if it was the wind that pushed me home so fast, or if it was all this winter training finally paying off.  Maybe it was the energy of the high surf seeping into my skin through the sea spray, or the applause I imagined as I passed Thatcher Island.  Whatever it was, I can hardly wait until Sunday’s run.

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One Comment on “Surf’s Up”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Elizabeth, with your well-worded descriptions I can envision what you see as you run. Well done!


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