Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Waves Before the Hurricane (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) SOLD!

3 September finds us on Martinique Beach, at the mouth of Pepetswick Inlet, to see if the waves are beginning to grow larger ahead of Hurricane Earl which is forecast to reach the coast of Nova Scotia before noon tomorrow.

The beach is long and curved, it's barrier dune backed by a large salt marsh, and there are several vehicles parked along the beach access road. Two groups of people are wading in the surf and a flock of Gulls rest on the long rock that juts into the crashing sea. The waves indeed are large, rising near shore from a ruffled gray sea under an inscrutable grey sky. The wind isn't strong yet, and although the sky is brooding, it doesn't appear threatening - there are just these waves rising out of it as if propagated by a force yet unseen.

 Waves are coming fast in threes and fours.  Some rise high enough for light to shine green through them like glass and some crest together from two different directions, meeting in a heart-shape before curling and breaking into white chaos. The front edge of one wave appears to change direction, streaking with a mad hiss like a car just shooting past at the edge of the surf. Most waves break further out, and follow each other in a procession of watery mountain ranges, snow-capped along the ridge.  The curve of the wet beach reflects the faint rose of the hazy evening sky and high above a field of broken mackerel clouds, thinly spread across the pink-touched baby blue.
NOTE: Prudence dictated that we retreat about 20 km inland from the coast while the storm passed, but on the bright sunny day after the hurricane we returned to Martinique Beach to waves that appeared no higher, but sea and surf much more agitated.  Waves followed each other thick and fast, their crests brushed forward by the wind. They broke early, crashing into a field of white water from their breaking to the beach. The gale force wind kept so much sea spray in the air that it was blazing white and painful to the eye to glance west along the beach toward the sun. Sand was also in the air, gritting in our teeth. It was as hard to stand against the wind as it must have been to stand against the surf for those adventurous folk who were trying it.

The hurricane felled many Spruce trees. They lay like jackstraws in the patch of woods at the base of the beach, and it was interesting to see their closely-coned, heavily lichened tops at close range where they'd fallen by the road. On the back side of the dune, the tops of every plant except dune grass, Bayberry, and Beach Pea was killed by unaccustomed exposure to salt - I imagine the very rain must have been half sea water right at the coast. On our way north we noticed Alders and Apple trees, Cherries and Maples all browned and blasted as if their leaves had been turned to darkly-dyed leather and twisted away from the sea. Even far inland many Maples still have their leaves turned upwards, undersides to the south.


  1. I like the painting, but was amazed by your description of the fallen trees. What force a hurricane wields, even far from its epicenter. On "my" stretch of ocean shore in BC, we were always protected by Vancouver Island, so we seldom saw much in the way of destruction. The west side of the Island bore the brunt of sea-based storms.
    That one swimmer in your painting looks so vulnerable, I want to yell "Get out of there!"

  2. This scene reminds me of Florida, the only good thing about working the occasional Saturday was being able to choose a day off during the week, when there weren't as many people at the beach, and head for Honeymoon Island north of Clearwater. When we had storms during winter I made sure I got there a day later to see what had been blown up on the beach, got some of my best shells and sanddollars during these times. Were you able to stay after the storm to see what treasures the wind may have blown ashore?

  3. Yes, we went back in the evening of the day after, at high tide, and also on the next day at the noon high tide, both days terrifically windy - but found nothing in the way of drift or shells on the beach. The shells, etc. must have been washed up in other places, perhaps certain bays. We will be watching for lines of drift at the high tide line from the storm, on our future excursions to other parts of the south coast of Nova Scotia.


What do you think of this painting, and what do you know about the subject that I have painted?