PLOVERS, WHITE CLAY, AND SAND

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We drove down the coast, past the place where, last summer, we watched the equinox spread waves of chasing light across the ground. It was a privilege for us to get away, we who rarely vacation and have generally been extravagant only about music and books and art. We drove south to have a night in a hotel, a bed and breakfast.

This is the Sylvia Beach Hotel. A rickety, somewhat cattywampus structure overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is a cat, too. Our room was the Jane Austen, the third and fourth windows east of the ocean front and facing north on the top floor. I could watch the sky and sea from the bed. We had a beautiful view. Most of the rooms do. It is not expensive to stay in the off-season and a Sunday, and the breakfast is good.

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The Sylvia Beach Hotel was built over a hundred years ago and eventually named for the founder of Shakespeare & Co. in 1987 with author-themed rooms. A fire escape on the east side is gone, but all the rooms have baths and sprinklers. In most other ways it remains what it always was: a Victorian boarding house.

The decks on the ocean side are recently rebuilt and much of the shingle siding has been repaired and replaced. When the work is done, it will be painted dark blue-green again.

We decided to have the dinner, served in five courses with several choices of entrée. The food was wonderful, but too much food for us. The company was marvelous and entertaining, the best part of the evening.

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At first the semipalmated plovers (I think) were nearly invisible until they moved. There were a half dozen or so just a few feet away as we made our way south on the sand. They scooted along the windblown beach, but eventually lifted and joined a larger group.

The flock of dozens of birds would rush cover together and then fly straight up all at once, turning instantly north, west, east, north again, and land. On the ground they rushed about, spacing themselves several feet apart and peck at the sand, turn, move back closer together again, and then all back up to begin again their collective dance in the air.

I watched the plovers do this once, twice, again and again, the landing, the expansion of their range, as if released from a leash connecting them to the flock, a moment of business, then back toward their center, and flight!

When we walked at home, we saw plovers again, not the same birds, perhaps not the same species. Pretty sure they are plovers.

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White clay and a trickling of sand. The pattern of trickled sand below is a mere inch tall.

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