The sunrise on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, was one of those once in a life time gifts the photo gods bestow on photographers. We had just come to Ship Bottom, NJ, for a short visit with my sister Vicki in the nursing home. I thought, feared, this may be the last time I would ever see her now that she is moving to her son's home in Frederica, Delaware, population 774. I hope it works out for her there, and in many respects this arrangement is far more sensible than living alone in our cold summer cottage on 24th Street.
And it will cost less money than a nursing home.
I was up out of the lumpy bed room off the living room at 5:30 AM, the one we always thought of as Aunt and Uncle's bedroom. The same one that had so many memories for me in a wild and crazy youth "down at the shore." Kathy slept. I looked out the door to the north and saw lovely puffy clouds hanging out in a dark sky. This sunrise had the promise of something special.
We lived just a few houses from the beach. I climbed the stairs at the top of the street and as I cleared the top of the dune I noticed a silent figure sitting ghost like on the bench. It was a woman, bundled up against the cold. She sat perfectly still, perhaps meditating to the sunrise to come. I made a few exposures with her silhouetted against the deep purple sky, ditched my sandals, and offered her a "Good morning." Not a word came over my shoulder from her, no greeting, just a dark silence and sounds from the sea. I walked down the dunes to the shore. "Good, not another reliving soul on the beach in either direction." It is always a joy to be so alone, especially here. This place felt so familiar, an echo from my youth. The cool sand felt very familiar between my toes.
The sky lightened but large clouds hung very still to the north. I could see the lights of a distant ship way out on the horizon. I waited and watched the incoming tide begin to wash away a little bank of sand. I left foot prints in the wet sand but the waves reached up on the shore and immediately erased them, a reminder of how ephemeral our existence.
The brightening sky. The clouds began to break apart. They floated into a perfect picture, as if arranged by some celestial director of sun rises. I could see those clouds again reflected in the pool of water left behind by the waves. The time was right for a picture. I could not have imaged it a more beautiful homecoming.