As you head east toward the tip of Long Island’s South Fork, near the old water mill that gives the town of Water Mill its name, you’ll see on your right a small body of water. Known as Mill Creek, it opens into a small bay called Mecox Bay.
If you turn off the road and follow the water, you’ll eventually come to Flying Point Beach.
During part of the year, the little bay is more of a saltwater pond, separated from the ocean. But at other times, a channel is opened, allowing the bay to regain its tides, filling and lowering with the ocean.
The beach is different on every visit.
I read that before the 1938 hurricane, Flying Point Beach had dunes that ranged from 40 to 75 feet. But a 15-foot storm surge carried the sand off and deposited it in the bay. The dunes are not particularly high now.
And most years, they take a pounding by one storm or other. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene sent water pouring up the slope of the beach and into the parking lot, as you can see in this video.
The surf easily dismantled wooden pathways to the beach, and exposed the huge steel barriers intended to build up the dunes, and protect the many homes that have been built on them.
The beach is narrower now in some spots than I ever remember seeing it. Of course, beaches have always been about change, but the warming of the planet, thanks to man-made climate change, has put our shorelines in a new kind of jeopardy.
I’ve been coming out here for a long time. The potato fields that swept the open landscape are mostly long gone. The acres of scrubby, tangled vegetation that hid generations of foxes have shrunk to tiny lots, although Linda, the painter of these landscapes, recently spotted a fox and kit on the road to the beach. Mecox Bay is now ringed by houses of Gatsbyesque proportions (whose existence I try to deny by not including them in my photographs), and the few remaining farmhouses and cottages in the area have been renovated beyond recognition, or replaced by huge, ostentatious structures that look like beach hotels or clubs, but are single-family homes.
And still … it’s beautiful.
You have to avert your gaze sometimes to diminish the shock of seeing a huge monstrosity of a house fill your range of vision. But luckily, we haven’t yet figured out how to build right on the water, so the beauty remains.
At any time of day, any time of year, in any weather, in the rosy glow of sunset or the bright light of day.
And if you can’t get out to see this place where the bay meets the ocean, you can get a taste of its beauty in these paintings by Linda Van Cooper.
So long for now.
For more on Long Island, Mecox Bay and the wildlife of the area, visit: