Monday, September 19, 2011

Sea Quest

"I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying."

- John Masefield

I love living on the coast of Maine. Especially once summer wanes and the summer people fade away, disperse, opening roadways, the sidewalks and shops in our little town, and especially, clearing the beaches. Ah, the sweet expanse of white sand stretching out, naked of people, waiting for us rubber booted and fleece clad year-rounders to come brave the chill.

(Blueberry as a "sea child")

It turned out to be glorious on Sunday. I had contemplated staying in bed all day as a result of sweet Buttercup's teething-nursing all night (the subject of a future post, I'm sure); The Man took the girlies and let me sleep in. But sunshine prevailed in the afternoon. I have a hearty dose of what my friend MommyK8 calls "the Mainer Sunshine Guilt." She breaks it down better than I could: "Basically it’s so crappy for most of the year, that when it’s nice enough to go outside, one feels extremely guilty if they are not outside." Exactly.

So I gather Blueberry and Buttercup, a giant magnifying glass and a bucket and shovel, leave The Man to nap blissfully on the couch and set out to the deserted beach to look for what Dylan Thomas brilliantly calls "news of the little world."

(Somewhere there is an armless crab this belongs to)

We find the nearly-empty expanse of sand marred only by huge piles of seaweed left from the last storm and Blueberry begins her search "for clues." She felt rather bad for the crabby fellow whose unlucky appendage we discovered, pictured above, but kept merrily scouring the sand and tide pools, "accidentally" getting wet.


"The little world" presented itself to us in the form of mussel shells left cracked open by hungry gulls, the tracks of scurrying sandpipers, ancient-looking patterns made by black seaweed swirled eloquently by the tide upon white sand; we discovered that seaweed takes on many colors and forms, including a nearly reptilian one that Blueberry found fascinating.

(the "seaweed snake")

The best part about heading to your local beach in the off-season, besides that no one charges you to get in, that you don't have to hunt, shark-like, for a parking spot near the bathrooms or that you don't have to listen to well-oiled tourists fighting over beach umbrellas, is that you sometimes find the unexpected. Today the local fire department was having a gathering here, complete with a huge firepit cooking up a mess of lobsters, crabs and clams, smothered in seaweed. The smell wafted out to us and we could hear snatches of the joyful shouts of firemen and their families playing volleyball. It was as if the beach itself was on vacation.

. . .

The sea was surprisingly calm but the rhythmic sound of waves tumbling upon themselves never ceases and this was the first time I noticed Buttercup really watching and listening to the sea. She was transfixed by the crash of the waves, entranced by the interplay of light and water. It was amazing to watch her see, really see, this beauty, to feel her solid little body leaning out of the front pack, oceanside. I discovered her discovery.


She was really serious and contemplative about watching the waves. Ok, she was sleepy too, but the sea transfixed her in a way I think it would us all if we let it. We should all let ourselves be carried out of ourselves by its repetition of sound and movement.

(The Man will be disappointed in my videography, but you get the idea)

It reminds me of a Sandburg poem from my college days:

The sea-wash never ends.
The sea-wash repeats, repeats.
Only old songs? Is that all the sea knows?
Only the old strong songs?
Is that all?
The sea-wash repeats, repeats.

We leave the beach, sandy, wet, tired, full of little world treasures, a bit dazzled by the light, our heads ringing with those old strong songs.

Repeat. Repeat.

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