In our area Hurricane Irene got demoted to tropical storm Irene, with modest amounts of rain and winds that could have been far worse by anyone’s measure.
For those of us who live on the coast and frequent the ocean regularly, Irene also left a little gift in the way of sandy little mounds just off-shore beyond the low tide mark. The reshifting of sand, which amounted to little plateaus thirty feet off shore, changed the topography just enough to provide unusual little pools of of water that attracted hoards of hermit crabs, small fish, living conchs and of course alive and robust grandchildren.
Rather than just sit on the beach and watch, we dragged our chairs and coolers and whatnot to the center of the action. At dead low tide, there we were, sitting in our little paradise just off-shore. While the storm caused damage elsewhere, here, on this south-facing beach in Fairhaven, between the rock weed on one side and a jetty on the other, mother nature stirred everything up, creating a smorgasbord of sustenance for things that crawled, swam and flew overhead.
There is a briny, salty smell that lingers along the shore when storms like these roll through and leave. Things look and feel different. Partly stirred and scuffed and strangely cleaned up too. It’s as if the dunes and rocks and shorebirds are at rest, are calmed and quiet and breathing easier after the roar of the day before.
Around my feet, while sitting in the luxury of my chair on our twenty-foot island, hermit crabs scurried about in water only inches deep, leaving little “crab trails” in the watery sand as they scooted about. To my left a conch raised itself off of the bottom and began moving slower than slow, and upon sensing the shadows of grandchildren watching close by, stopped and dropped stone-still, until the threatening forms dashed off to discover new delights.
We adults, as grandparents and parents, take in and savor the seaside for all it’s pleasures. But children, all children it seems, are able to blur the lines without effort between their human world and that of the sea and sand and wind all around them. In their beautiful skins they swoop and splash and dig and crawl about as if, for a time at least, they belong to the wet and wild of the shore. For them, like the periwinkles and salty air, there is no time, no clock, no this or that. There’s a tugging, a genetic homecoming that flows without the need of being taught or told. It simply is. They are not wet and visiting, it seems, but rather are here, belong and fit in perfectly.
It’s amazing the things one sees and understands while watching hermit crabs at work.
It was just an ordinary day on one remote little beach. It didn’t make the news. the Weather Channel truck was long-gone too, apparently uninterested in the rest of the story, the post-hurricane party in the salty pools and clumps of seaweed washed ashore and the gulls that feasted with abandon through the pickings.
But nothing stays as is. Soon the incoming tide reclaimed our sandy island inch by inch. The chubs and blue crabs found their siblings and beyond the rocks, a quahog, exposed by the shifting bottom around it, exhaled and breathed anew the tide’s return and got scooped up by a hovering gull, got dropped, broke open and was eaten just like that. The sun, now low in the western sky served to remind parents that tomorrow was coming fast and that beach bags would be swapped for backpacks and the first day of school.