Winter at Padre Island & Beach Walk

bobgeorge-blogThe wind blows cold from up the beach at Padre Island National Seashore in late December. Dunes beyond the reach of the tides are obscured by salt suspended in a fog created by the pounding surf. Few venture onto the smooth sand in what is one of the coldest winters in recent memory. The tide retreats leaving behind the sea’s dead; blowfish, starfish, sand dollars and a myriad of shell fragments slowly being ground to flour.

I walk in my bare feet in spite of it, not wanting to return home without the memory of soft sand between my toes, washing away with the rising tide. A deposit of rainbow sea foam sticks to my ankles.

“But January is the worst month,” says Bob the Fisherman.

The waves wash over Bob’s hip waders, insulating him from the chill brought by the unusual but not unseasonable cold.

“Fishing’s not so great either,” he tells me while my bare feet numb with each wash of cold seawater. Not at all what I was expecting on the Texas Gulf Shore. I credit my thick Canadian blood for being able to bear it. My first cold weather barefoot beach hike was in 2009 on the National Park beaches of Price Edward Island. My husband convinced me I would regret it if I left my shoes on. Every beach must be felt to be truly experienced.


Sea Shells gathered along the beaches of Mustang and Padre Island, Texas

Bob’s solitary fishing rod was stuck deep in the sand, stuck nearly straight up as if looking to heaven to send some fish. But it was Bob’s company that drew my attention and led to me striking up a conversation with this 74 year old widower, content to be fishing anyway.

A great blue heron stood on one leg with his back to the wind a mere 15 feet from Bob. He looked a little worse for wear, his feathers resembling a teenager’s bed head after a long night of partying. Bob would toss him a shrimp and he’s extend his graceful neck to grab it before “Buddy” the sandpiper got a hold of it.

A former truck driver, Bob has been all over the country and has been wintering in his trailer at Padre Island for 10 years. The heron, “George” has shared each one of them with him. George is happy to help him with his catch. Happy to help him eat it, of course. George was injured at some point in his life and the leg which doesn’t seem quite right is the way to identify him. Bob keeps George in shrimp for when the catch is non-existent.

I stood still until George decided we were all OK. He lingered, always watching, but less hesitant as the conversation went on. My feet were sinking in the sand as the tide overtook us and, finally, the bones in my shins began to ache. I said my good bye. Bob told me he was always here, every winter and to come visit again.

“Just ask for Bob the Fisherman! ”

I walked backwards for a few minutes, waving, hoping movement would bring the blood back to my frozen feet and, as the rush began to return with an ache, I could feel the soft flour like sand build on my toes.


Continuing with the experiments in mixed media… Edited to add a couple more photos of the piece under different light to see how it varies.


“Beach Walk”, mixed media on birch panel. © 2014 M.B. Hendry (Click on the image to see a larger version)

Showing the interference light effects

Showing the interference light effects


In part sun



    • Michelle says

      LOL! It was really neat to see such a tentative but valued relationship between man and bird!

  1. says

    What a great story, true story. Lovely.
    And I so agree with you about how you need to truly experience a beach with your feet.
    Interesting to see how the light affects your new art, which rocks, btw.
    There is much (good things) to be said about indulgence when it comes to art. .

    • Michelle says

      Thanks, Ingrid. It has been a harsh couple of years on the painting side. I decided it was time to let go a little, so I am glad it connects with you. I feel like a beginner and it is all fun again!

  2. Donna says

    You have a writer’s heart and an artist’s soul. I see a novel with the photo of Bob and George on the cover. What a perfect intro, you have already written, just have to decide on your characters involvement and story line.

    I really like your new piece. I can see your fun showing again. An Art Show and a book signing …… you need your people to talk to their people… : )

  3. says

    Yes, these mixed media experiments have proven to be a success. And I’m so excited for you, Michelle. You’re multi-talented indeed… including writing. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your post both the vision and the words.

    • Michelle says

      That is quite a compliment coming from someone as well read as you, Arti! Thank you! The mixed media is fun and I have a lot to learn…