I got to Point Dume forty-five minutes before sunset. Back in the Valley the sun glared down from the sky, warming the land and tricking flowers and bees alike into thinking it was spring already. There, at the beach gusts of wind whipped across the sand.
Instead of paying the ten-dollar fee to get into the parking lot, I pulled the car over at the edge of the highway, like everyone else. Grabbing my bag and putting on a sweater, I walked the extra ten feet to the lot, then across it. Once on the other side, I took off my sandals and rolled up my jeans to make my trek down to the water's edge.
The sand gave under my feet, and I sank an inch into it at every step. I waddled my way down to the seashore. All other times I'd been there, a continuous pattern of footprints pockmarked the beach, but now the wind had chiseled them down. Grains of sand bit into my face like multitudes of insects. I turned my back against their flurry and fished the camera out of my bag.
Some people think taking one of those sunset-at-the-beach photos is a matter of timing and a camera. It's a misconception. To take pictures of any sunset that will grab people's attention you need clouds--clouds arranged in a way that the setting sun's rays refract on them and lit up the sky like a bonfire. Most of those pictures you see on stock photo sites are fakes: Frankensteined together from images of sea and sky that had never met before their blind date in Photoshop.
There were no clouds in the sky this time. It didn't matter; that's not why I was there. To tell the truth, I didn't know why I was there, other than having had an impulse to drive across the mountains and down to the beach.
Waves licked at my feet. The ocean was like ice water, yet there were surfers in it, hugging every surge like seals wrapped in neoprene. A couple seagulls stood at the edge of sand and water, picking up whatever morsels the surf washed ashore. I took a few pictures of them, but I had no telephoto lens, and the birds edged away from me at the same pace I tried to close the distance between us.
As the sun drifted closer the horizon, the bottom of the sky began to blush. It contrasted with the pool of ink stretching across the landscape that was the ocean. At the edge of the shore, where the water had soaked it through, the sand was the color of chocolate. I clicked away until the light faded away.
I drove back to the Valley under the darkness. The wind kept hurling itself against the car until I crossed the mountains.