Walking the beach in early spring is only for those who are strong of stomach. I found that out the other day when I took Neko for our first beach stroll of 2008. It was one of those fine, fresh spring days where you feel like maybe there's hope for mankind after all. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed the sound of the waves.
We moved here last September, so I've never gotten to know the lake through a spring yet. I had the pleasure of living beside it this past autumn, with its wild blue waves and stormy skies, my hair and face lashed by its seemingly endless winds. And it was a sort of honour to experience it in the winter; most people only see the beach in summer, so I get a thrill knowing it's mine to enjoy all year round. It's like a different creature with every turn of the season. In winter, the waves freeze along the shore in bizarre formations; the silence is unnerving. It's like one of those stretches of salty desert you see in magazines sometimes - a white, frozen wasteland.
Now the ice has melted away at last - only to reveal a beach that resembles more of an abbatoir or cesspool than the glorious retreat I'm used to. To my disgust and Neko's delight, all sorts of nasty things have washed up during the latest spring storms: dead seagulls, bloated possums, fish with their eyes picked out, broken bottles, mylar balloons, plastic bags, gnarled branches choked with seaweed and muck. At least there's no sign of the primordial algae ooze that slopped its way up and down Lurgan and Emerton beaches last summer...but I'm sure it's lurking in the lake, just waiting to creep up onto the sand again.
The strange thing is that as repulsed as I was by all the ugliness, I couldn't help but find bits and pieces of beauty where I least expected it - uprooted dogwoods, their blood-red branches fanned against the sand; seaweeds so green they almost looked black; twisted pieces of driftwood as smooth as skin to the touch; birch trees shedding their white bark in delicate curls. And I can't deny the joy that lept to my throat when I watched Neko galloping free along a beach full of canine delights with a big doggy grin on her face.
I'm sure there's a proverb or bromide in here somewhere, but I'm too tired to spell it out. I'm just going to go back to the beach and watch Neko run.