I took a day off to go to the beach with my friend Pam yesterday. We’ve been taking these days when we can align our busy schedules for many years now, always heading to Crane’s Beach, one of the best in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You approach the wide sandy beach via a boardwalk that carefully oversteps and protects the dunes.

On the risers of two of the boardwalks, and also on the cedar shingles of the snack bar and bath houses and the face of the arbor between, are stenciled the stanzas of a poem. On our approach, I read:

This beach has a history of habits.
The moon, a constant clock,
has always given rise to tides.
Wave by wave
the water wakes and sighs
shortens the sand
lengthens a swim
The wind
has always known
how to nudge
and urge
the sand into action,
setting a dune on
a blade of grass —
a foothold for
more wind

tangling the memory of
a pitch pine’s roots

You can read the full poem, and its story, here.

The emphasis above is, of course, mine. I couldn’t help think of the blades of grass attracting grain upon grain of sand and the wind shaping it into patterns. A different way to think about the beach.

Pam and I always sit, have coffee and an apple rollup that we purchase from Russell’s Orchards, a farm stand that is on the road to the beach. Then it is time for our walk, as long as we have time for (the beach is four miles long). It was low tide, so we traversed the flats — nearly a quarter mile from the dunes to the water — and stopped many times to look at the patterns the sea had etched in the hard, packed sand.

My camera at home, I could take photos only in my head. Fortunately, there’s flickr where I found some of the typical patterns.

Water on sand, wind on snow. The patterns in nature teach us a lot about complexity.

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