Saturday, October 9, 2010

Painting at Extreme High Tide: A Tale of Adventure

"High Tide Moment" 9x12, pastel

There's a little point, Con Robinson Point, that I've painted at frequently over the years. The tide can come up pretty high along the beach just below the bluff. A long staircase leads down from the bluff to the beach and the cobblestones below. Winter storms have continued to erode the bluff, dumping wheelbarrow-sized chunks of turf down to the beach.

This past week, I went out painting below the bluff. It was nearing high tide, and I was surprised at how high it was. I imagine we must have been at a new moon, since I remember seeing a little sickle moon rising just ahead of the sun the other morning. (New moon and full moon coincide with spring tides, which are the highest tides of the month.) Still, there was a good 20 feet of beach to set up on.

I always poke a stick in the ground at the water's edge so I can judge how fast the water is coming in during flood tide. As I got into my pastels, my warning stick disappeared pretty quickly - and then so did the next two I put in.

I should also mention that a storm had passed through just the day before, and we were having a good deal of blow. My painting partner, David, and I had set up on the lee side of the point. Still, there were some dramatic waves crashing in. David was painting behind a 30-foot weir stake the last storm had cast up on the beach. This stake was more like a massive utility pole. When one wave bounced it up a few feet in the air and toward David, we began to wonder if maybe we shouldn't pack up.

I checked out our escape route - around the point and back to the staircase - and saw we had about a foot of dry land remaining. We quickly evaluated our position. We decided to stick it out, seeing that we had a little bit of height behind us we could scramble to should the tide get beyond the last high tide mark. (You can see where the last tide stopped by looking at the wrack line of seaweed. That doesn't necessarily mean the next tide will stop there!)

By the time we finished our pieces, my eyeglasses were misted with sea spray. I think my pastel gives some indication of the vigor of the moment - that little bit of seaweed at the bottom was just a few feet from me. You'll need to imagine the soundtrack of crashing surf.

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