It was around 7 p.m. when I walked across the street from our hotel to its tiny private beach, with its wooden swing and a few plastic deck chairs. The Bay Breeze's beach is flanked by private cabins on each side, but no one was out. The sun was getting low in the sky, turning the water diamond colored. I stepped into the water, let the shock of cold pass, then kept walking, amazed that even when I went in as deep as my waist, I could still see my chartreuse-painted toes perfectly. Here and there I saw a white pinfeathers shed by a seagull that had drifted to the sandy bottom. The sand was combed in perfect ridges that gave only slightly under my step. The water seemed still at first, and the I noticed concentric ripples that seemed to radiate out from me. When I got far enough from the shore, I could see two white churches with prim steeples across Ephraim's harbor. A sailboat with red sails moved slowly toward them. As the sun lowered, each ripple became a prism, and the water stretching out from my waist was like a full skirt of the most beautiful fabric, a lovely blue-gray on top with a soft tan when you looked just below the surface, moving like the scales of a breathing dragon.
At this point I realized that the scene was too beautiful to keep to myself, so I ran back to get my husband and a cocktail for each of us to sip with the sunset. By the time we returned to the beach, the light had changed. The sun was now approaching a bank of clouds over Peninsula State Park, releasing "God rays" and illuminating the clouds from behind. A seagull came ricocheting out of the clouds as if fleeing the burning sun. I walked back out into the Bay, farther this time. When I let my hands trail in the water, the bones ached. It felt like ice water.
Now, the sun threw an amber hue onto the ripples, and I was encircled with strings of amber beads, crisscrossing this way and that. Turning a 360 on the spot, the water up to my navel, I felt I was in the sunset, not just watching it. I dared myself to jump in and start swimming, knowing that if I felt too cold, I could always run to the hot tub across the street. But then I realized that if I started kicking, I would lose the black rubber sandals I was wearing, so I walked back to shore again, where Erik sat in a deck chair, taking my picture and sipping his G&T. While I was gone, he had chatted with another couple who said they came here often. Just a month ago, they had told him, there was still ice in that channel between the park and the little wooded island just off its shore. We thought that was the island we'd seen from the lighthouse in the park, where an informational poster had informed us that a little boy had died trying to walk across the ice.
I walked back out into the water, barefoot this time, enjoying the feel of the firm, smooth sand under my toes. I turned in a circle again, drinking in how everything had changed yet again. Patches of water far away looked completely smooth, while the water all around me was in constant motion. Finally I gathered my courage and sank down into the water to swim. By skin burned all over as if being rubbed by snow, but the motion of kicking and paddling kept my temperature up. Too soon the water was too shallow to take any more strokes, and I gorilla-walked on my knuckles while kicking with my feet. When I stepped out of the water I did not feel cold, because the air was warmer. I wrapped up in my robe and a towel and sat back to watch the big song and dance number of the sunset. The sun was behind the clouds now, but peeping out through a hole in their center, and the sky was becoming pink. Some of the clouds looked gray, others colored, and the trees of the island and of the state park were mirrored vividly in the water. After a while, the sun was gone, and the section of water right in front of it was orange, while the section directly in front of us was pink. The skies above the water were these colors too, but the reflection seemed more intense. The red sailboat was just a silhouette now, completely outdone by the sky spectacle. The mosquitoes and cooling air sent us back to the hot tub, which was sad, because I could have sat and looked forever.