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To the Ends of the Earth by Elizabeth Lowell - Fiction
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Catherine Cochran was too caught up in the sensuous beauty of ocean and sunset to realize that the tide was creeping up on her. Earlier, when the light had begun to slant and deepen into late afternoon, she had picked her way out on the rocky point below her house, set up her camera, and settled in to wait for the moment when the sun would set fire to the serene face of the sea.
She hadn't noticed that the tide was coming up as the sun was going down. The inward sweep of each deceptively smooth wave brought her an inch closer to real trouble. But each wave also brought her closer to the picture she had spent weeks trying to get.
Everything was perfect today. The tide was low, the sky was clear, the sun was setting, and the surface of the sea was a liquid gemstone shimmering with light. If she was patient, the moment she had been waiting for would finally come.
Behind Cat a ragged line of rocks thrust out of the water, gathering height and power until they finally became a headland braced against the seductive rush of waves. In front of her the ragged tongue of land dissolved into random rocks covered by thick beards of mussels and slick green water plants.
That was what held Cat's attention now. The textures of shells and seaweed, smooth waves and slanting light, were what had lured her out beyond the tide pools and slippery intertidal rocks to this spot midway between land and sea. She had been daring but not foolish in her quest for just the right photo; at low tide, the top of the rock she crouched on was dry and beyond the reach of all but the biggest waves.
The rocks behind and in front of Cat were below water most of the time. Their rough, powerful faces emerged only during an unusually low tide. As soon as the balance of sea and moon shifted, the rugged rocks would sink again into the ocean's liquid embrace. Then the image she had worked so hard to capture on film would be beyond reach until the next time that tide, sun, and weather worked together again.
As the evening sea swept toward the outer rocks, Cat counted out the seconds between the rhythmic waves. When she sensed that the light and time and wave finally would be right, she braced herself more securely and let out her breath. At the exact instant the fluid curve of water met the rocks, she triggered the motor drive on her camera.
Well beyond the six-hundred-millimeter lens, wave met rock. Water exploded into creamy cataracts. Fountains of iridescent bubbles licked over black stone.
That was the moment she wanted to capture, the fragile caress of foam and the rock that had broken a billion waves...the rock that was itself being melted by rainbow bubbles until finally it would be one with the sea it had so long withstood.
Not defeat, but equality, for wave and rock defined each other. Without the wave, the rock would never know the power of surrender. Without the rock, the wave would spend itself quietly on the shore, never finding a way to transform its smooth perfection into a fierce explosion of beauty.
Cat lost count of the waves, of the times she triggered the camera, of the rolls of film she loaded into the Nikon's compact body. Her legs cramped, protesting their unnatural position. She ignored discomfort, Until the light was gone, she wouldn't allow anything to break her concentration on the changing images -- pouring through the long lens into her camera.
To the Ends of the EarthBy: Elizabeth Lowell