Marcyn Del Clements
Claremont, California, USA
Poe Road, Salton Sea
The road does not end at the shore, but extends out on a sandy spit into the south end of the Sea. Rick's afraid to drive out the sandy track, and is no longer able to walk that far. So he tells me to go out and see what birds are there, starts on his crossword puzzle.
The wind makes forward progress problematic. But the track is firm and dry, my steps crunch on the shells of tiny, long-dead mollusks. My jacket flaps and my pants beat the sides of my legs. I tighten the chin strap on my hat and hunch forward.
At the edge of a shallow depression where the water collects, I sit down on the sand to photograph the birds, scooting slowly closer so as not to scare them up. The gulls lift, settle a little further away, but the peeps hold: a Snowy plover, maybe a dozen stunning Red knots, a couple of black-bellied dunlin, bright chestnut-backed Western sandpipers, Ruddy turnstones! Gorgeous!
There's a Black-bellied plover in full breeding plumage walking through my lens. I have the camera turned to black and white. The images are stark, sharp. Bonaparte's gulls drift over, trying to land in the wind, their startling white bellies contrast with black wing linings. All the birds are busy eating the brine flies, stuck to the wet sand.
The wind is furious and unrelenting; the birds can barely fly in it. The coots and grebes look like they drown in the troughs and billows of brown Sea water. Eared grebes shine bronzy in the sun.
I trudge all the way to the end of the spit—deep out in the Sea, brown waves all around me. Foam detaches from the wave-stop rocks and blows across to the other side. They have dumped concrete and rebar out here, I think to make a boat ramp. But like most of the building efforts, it was a failure. They are white with brine and offerings of the birds.
I turn and look back at my husband, at the car, so far off they are just a sand-cloud in the distance.
a pale copper butterfly
struggles to land