Day Six: Last Day in the Dunes - Saturday, Sept. 19th, 2015

After trekking out over the scorched dunes, I found a spot in the sand to paint this shack owned by the late Ray Wells who resided in it until her death at the age of 103.  I wanted to capture the scene as it heated up from morning into day.  I love how proudly this shack stands, like a lookout over the dune environment. 

On my way to and from this painting site I encounter so many different animals.  Mostly the usual suspects - piping plovers and gray seals...

But also this lone black bird near the ocean edge.  I stop to admire its oil-black feathers and reptilian demeanor.  There is a haunting, almost grim-reaper like quality to its movement and blank stare.  I move on.

After seeing the black bird I come across a very still seagull.  It's enormous with distinct markings that set it apart from the other seagulls that populate the backshore. 

It doesn't seem alarmed by my presence or skittish in any way so I get as close as I can - which is very close - and take photos.  Much later on in the day I return to see the seagull in the same exact spot on the beach, with no other birds anywhere around.  It doesn't seem to be able to see me, and its eyes are so dark and shadowed I can't tell if it even has eyes at all.  I realize then that its calm behavior means that its probably about to die.  I feel strange for greedily photographing it in its final resting place and what I think are probably its final hours.  I check the spot the following morning, and sure enough the bird is gone.

In everyday life the subject of death is often something easily pushed aside.  But today in the dunes these animals remind me of it.  And in painting Ray Wells shack I'm reminded of it.  I think about what the experience of living in that shack year after year would have been like for her and husband. And because she survived him, how she felt going there for the first time without him.  

The dune shacks retain the imprint of their owners in a way that newer buildings don't, because they were physically constructed and renovated by the hands of their occupants and then left to face the elements each winter.  As an artist drawing them, it becomes very evident that their structural lines often don't follow the rules of perspective.  Their roofs slope over time the way an older person's neck or back might.  In this way it feels more like painting a portrait of a person than rendering a building.  

After this long sun-filled day painting in the dunes I feel ready to return home.  Not just to my temporary shack home, but my real home.  I love being alone out here, but I was reminded today of all the people I love and how temporary our time on this Earth is.