What bird dropped the seed that sprouted in such an unlikely place? Who in the town is old enough to remember the tree when it greenly shaded parents and toddlers? How many children trudged away from the shore and paused here to grudgingly dump sand from their beach toys?

I’ve only encountered this tree today, a gnomon marking by bare branch shadow tracings the passage of hours to years. Storm winds, abetted by little boys’ digging hands, have made arches of the exposed buttressing roots. Yet the tree stands.

After some hours, we returned, and found the color palette changed. Sun-silvered water had gone gunmetal, rendering the tide line subtle against the sand while the black branches clawed a rosy sky. No longer far enough above the waves to cast a gilded path, the sun had melted to a gold puddle on the horizon line.