Friday, March 7, 2014

The Winter Shoreline

If you've come to enjoy the Cape Ann coastline these last few months, the advent of spring means the end of winter-only pleasures we won't see again until frost re-clarifies the air and prompts Arctic waterfowl to return here for their 'balmy' winter residence. Now, as they begin to pair up for their journey north we have to accept a diminishment along our rocky shores, for there is scarcely any summer contingent of  birds to take up their niche.

We'll have compensations in the uplands, of course,  as plants green, as creatures stir, as daylight lengthens. It will be nice to enjoy shirt-sleeve comfort. But a certain zest will be missing, and a camaraderie with other adventurers who sparkle with the freshness of a nippy day.

Morning, looking toward Folly Point
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
At the root of our Judeo-Christian tradition is a permissive bequest. How this will play out at contemporary levels of population and technology is an unsettling question. The Halibut Point landscape has been exempted from further development, but surrounding forces continue their global ways. An itinerant flock of sandpipers from abroad stops for refuge.

Purple sandpipers, arriving at Halibut Point
Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?
In the Beatitudes Jesus called attention to the simple model of creation, centered on a human audience. Today that audience is a greater player with responsibility for continuity of the show, not theologically but ecologically.  It has become a question not just of relative value but of mutual survival.

Purple sandpipers, "beside the still waters"

Purple sandpipers, "I will fear no evil"
The overwintering pairs at Halibut Point pictured below will soon be on their way to northerly breeding grounds to fulfill their promise of procreation. Farewell, and Godspeed.

Common eiders -
circumpolar nesters along the coastline of Alaska, Hudson Bay, eastern Canada and northern Maine.

Horned grebes -
make nests of floating vegetation anchored to marsh plants, from the Arctic Circle south to the Great Lakes.

Harlequin ducks -
nest close to rapid mountain streams on  Baffin Island, Greenland, Iceland and northeast Canada.

I walked far down the beach, soothed by the rhythm of the waves, the sun on my bare back and legs, the wind and mist from the spray on my hair. Into the waves and out like a sandpiper. And then home, drenched, drugged, reeling, full to the brim with my day alone.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, 1955
Evening, Halibut Point

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