Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Is it reggae night, Daddy?” Chloe asks bouncing lightly from one foot to another.
“Yes, Little Mama, and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful evening,” I say looking at the translucent sky and late afternoon sun sparkling off Three Mile Harbor’s gentle waves. Directly across from our home, two swans drift around one of the natural basins that formed along the western shoreline of the harbor.
Chloe runs to her bedroom to grab crayons, Bella her baby-doll, her favorite Angelina Ballerina book, Hello Kitty sunglasses, and her new ladybug backpack. Dressed in white tights, silver sandals, and purple tie-dye spaghetti strap dress, at 4½ she is ready to party until the sun goes down.
Winston Irie and Twister are playing their regular Sunday night gig at Navy Beach in Montauk. We pile into the old Jeep, jacked up, top down, and feel in the breeze the coolness of the impending night. Avoiding 27 for as long as it is possible, we drive along Springs’ secondary roads, heading toward one of my favorite areas in the east end; the secondary dunes in Amagansett.
Twisting leisurely along Cranberry Road, we marvel at the changing landscape now specked with modern glass, steel and wood houses. My wife, Cat, reminds me with no regret in her voice of the house we almost bought many years ago on this road before most of these new colossal estates were built.
Turning right onto Napeague Meadow Road, the houses are gone and we glide through sea grass marveling at the brushing light pinks and luminescent purples that begin to appear in the cerulean sky-scape. Cat is wrapped in her barn coat, black hair whipping in the wind, quietly surveying the stunning landscape. We both see an egret far out in the wetlands, quiet, graceful, and I put my hand on her leg saying in that slight gesture, “we are blessed, loved, grateful, humbled, and free.” And without saying a thing, I know she agrees.
I glance into the rearview mirror and Chloe, sensing the attention, looks up from her drawing. “Babe, look at the egret in the grass. How beautiful.” Her whiteness is stark against the grasses and wild blueberry bushes; she is quiet in the blowing reeds. Even when still, everything here seems to move. It is easy to see how these creatures are associated in some Native American cultures with peace and harmony. Standing on one leg, she is both separate and a part of all that surrounds her. And then she is off, her great wings lifting her effortlessly into the pink and orange sky.
“I see her, I see her,” she says, although I’m not quite sure she does.
Then, “Daddy, Daddy! Mommy! Mommy! Look, look!”
“What?” I ask, squinting over the wetlands, looking for more wildlife.
“Those kites,” she says excitedly, “they’re flying giant kites on the water!”
She has noticed the kite boarders out in the harbor, their striped canopies bouncing along the currents, their boards in sync with the small whitecaps breaking randomly from buffeting winds. Every few seconds, one shoots off a small wave and then floats along the air, graceful and silent, until landing softly yet with surprising speed across the chop.
“I like the purple one,” she says. “But I also like the orange one and the pink one! They’re like rainbows!”
“You want to do that one day?” I ask, thinking somewhat anxiously of my little girl floating high in the air and tearing across the water, uncontrollable giggles and joy emanating from her body.
“Yes! Can I do it when I’m 5!? 6?!” she asks excitedly.
“Of course, Little Mama, of course.” It feels like anything in this place is possible. The kite boarders grow smaller as they continue their improvised choreography, slicing across the muddled chop. I watch Chloe straining in her child’s seat to catch the receding rainbows darting across the water.
Over the tracks, left turn onto route 27, past the desperate mayhem around Cyril’s, the rising vistas present us with a constantly changing sky-scape. Like watching Pollock drip oily pigment to canvas until finally, beyond reason, it shimmers and dances with meaning and passion, the dynamic majesty in the sky seems to be evidence of Thoreau’s notion that nature is indeed “full of genius; full of the divinity.”
We arrive at Navy Beach, give our friend Martin a handshake and hug and settle into the beanbag chairs strewn around the rocky beach. Winston is singing Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up, the Blue Heron is anchored in Fort Pond Bay, locals and tourists are kicking back drinking mojitos, rosé, Driftwood Ale, champagne; the sun floats lower in the sky and is slowly overwhelmed by vibrant streaks of orange, magenta, indigo, rampaging purples.
Reggae is the natural rhythm for this spectacular performance, the one moment in the day where you can almost feel the earth spinning on its axis. People dance in the sand, but if you know what life is worth…, twirl about the beach, You will look for yours on earth…, laugh with friends and lovers, and sink deeper into Winston’s soft Jamaican soul, and now you see the light…
Chloe takes a sip of her water, nibbles on a few salty edamame, smiles shyly at Winston who is transitioning seamlessly into Marley’s “War,” and starts her search. That until there no longer/First class and second class citizens of any nation…., She comes back to our little tribe holding several beach stones of different sizes and hues, Until the colour of a man’s skin…, softly rounded and smooth from decades of sun, wind and water, excited to begin her art…Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes/Me say war.
She lays out her crayons on the table amidst the half empty glasses and begins to color each stone, thoughtfully adding colors, shapes and patterns…That until the basic human rights/Are equally guaranteed to all/Without regard to race/Dis a war…, Swirls, dots, faces, circles; small stone canvases lay about the table. Soon there are other children gathering around, curious to see what this budding Krasner is doing. That until that day/The dream of lasting peace…, The music has her periodically spinning away from her drawing, but she soon returns, now with her own tribe of new friends, all coloring stones at Navy Beach…World citizenship/Rule of international morality/Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued/But never attained /Now everywhere is war – war.
The sun dissolves beyond the horizon, leaving the canopy of sky over Montauk blood orange, bruising purple, hazy cobalt, slashed with mantis green; we gather our things singing along softly with Winston to Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. The moon and stars are shadows of what they will become. Don’t worry about a thing/’Cause every little thing gonna be all right…, Chloe is still jazzed from the energy of twilight, but tired and ready to go home. She will be asleep before we cross the tracks. Rise up this mornin’/Smile with the risin’ sun…, We keep her favorite, a small flat ice blue stone decorated with purple swirls and pink dots, and toss the rest back onto the beach. She always tries to find them the next time we come, but never can. Erasing Chloe’s designs as she does our footprints in the dawn of the rising tide, earth abides. Three little birds/Each by my doorstep/Singin’ sweet songs/Of melodies pure and true/This is my message to you…