On My Way: Looking for the cut

It was a good day to be on the beach.


The sound of the surf, the chill in the air, the blue sky and the yellow sun, the tan beach and the Atlantic Ocean were reasons enough.

I drove to the left fork of South Beach on Katama Road. I passed the fields of Katama Farm on my right. I was eager for the walk. As I came around the last curve, the big new sand dune rose up. The giant dome of perfectly groomed sand was freshly planted (in the last few years anyhow) with hundreds of tufts of evenly spaced beach grass. I pulled around the turn at the end of Katama Road and parked on Atlantic Drive.

I set out. Becham, my nearly 8-year-old terrier mix pup, already was a few feet ahead. I climbed up and over the small hill of sand and through the fencing. The loud crash of the waves on the beach greeted me. I headed east. The objective was the cut recently made in the Norton Point Beach — a walk of approximately two miles. Recent storms had punched a hole through the fragile defense of the barrier beach. Katama Bay and the Atlantic Ocean again were connected in the give and take of mother nature.

The morning was glorious. A crisp winter blue filled the sky. A light wind from the north in no way dampened the spirits. Just the opposite. The radiant sun cast its warmth over the cold. A small surf landed on the beach. The bubbly foam, from the crash of the wave, strode up onto the shore and then receded back into the ocean leaving brown colored patches of wet sand.

The footing was easier than the normal happy trudge. The rain and the cold of the night before had created a more compact surface. My feet did not sink as far. I could push off without the usual slip. After a few hundred yards, the dunes dropped off for a little while. I saw Katama Bay was accompanying me on the land side of the beach. What a pleasant development.

Some waves broke a few hundred yards out from the beach. Each one was its own little portrait — the result I imagine of drifting sandbars. The waves curled in a short line. A white pickup with the green T of the Trustees on the door passed in the opposite direction. A man’s arm waved out of the window. I waved back. It was a good day to be on the beach.

Becham ran far ahead chasing the waves. He likes to race along the bottom of the beach where they break and then veer away with a split second to spare as they crash. The width and contour of the beach was in constant flux. Some areas were built high with sand and leaned to the water while others were low lying plateaus. Always the sea side of the beach sloped to the water’s edge.

For a while, I walked just to enjoy the walk. The sound of the surf was to my side. The tan beach stretched to the front. I breathed the cool air. I felt the exertion. I broke out of my reverie as the beach made a dramatic curve. The ocean was sculpting a new shape to the shoreline. The straight beach had been fashioned into a cove. I watched the waves wash up the center.

Soon after, I could make out the cut far ahead. I walked over a section of beach covered with small endless ridges — the appearance of the desert in Death Valley. The footing was nearly that of hard ground.

The opening between the bay and the Ocean became more and more discernible. A large flock of seagulls stood on their thin legs at the ocean’s edge. I approached with anticipation. The cut had been made at the far end of the bay. One could only be in awe of the passage that brimmed with new life. The cut, I would guess, was about 100 feet wide. The work remained underway.

I looked at the river of water flowing out from the bay. The menace was clear and unmistakable. The flood was fast and deep. Mini rips turned on the surface. The water had no regard for anyone or anything. I stood for a while.

The forces were difficult to comprehend. The channel was deep. The edge of the western shoreline — where I was — looked sheared by a mason’s saw. Out from the opening, the currents collided with the ocean. The waters churned in a cauldron of angry whitecaps. I set back out with a fearsome appreciation.

I was taken by the sheer beauty as I made my way with the cut now behind me. The ocean was an azure blue. A bank of clouds was far off on the horizon. The barrier beach was barren and windswept. The sunlight was in the sky. I walked most of the way back along the shore of the bay. The bay was placid and alive. Houses dotted the opposite shore. Becham no longer had the energy to chase the waves.

The crash of the ocean surf was obscured by the sand dunes. We returned to the beach for the last half mile. We then took the 4×4 tracks for the last bit back to the truck. I drove down Atlantic Drive to the right fork for our return home. I turned onto Herring Creek road. The Katama airfield was off to the right.