Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nature's playground

April 13

We found the beach the locals and the bird watchers frequent. Down shaded lanes with ancient overhanging oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss we drive slowly trying to remember the directions. We find the parking lot and look up at the canopy. The trees here have come together overhead and we are in a cave of greenness. The path disappears into the woods and we can just see marsh and beach in the distance.

We have come at low tide as directed. It turns out today is a very low tide. When the path emerges onto the beach we see a vast expanse of open sand dotted with marsh grass, oyster beds and rivulets of the outgoing tide. We walk near the first tide pool and see a swarm of tiny crabs run from us towards their little sandy holes. "They think we are birds coming to eat them," I say and my little one repeats this again and again.

We walk out across the muddy sandy openness towards the edge of the ocean. Our local friend said we might find shark teeth washed up. He also cautioned that we should not swim off this beach since the owners of the teeth might be close by. We are traveling light today, two buckets and binoculars. We scan the flats and see huge groups of migrating birds huddled on the sand. Closer we see heron and egret stealthily fishing with their long pointy beaks at the ready.

A quarter mile from the dunes we are at the edge of the tides progress. This space is usually underwater and we can feel it. This is our special brief moment to be here. A pass the ocean has given us. In a few hours, I think, this spot will be deep underwater. We find little straws poking up from the sand at the water's edge. Clams! We dig down again and again trying to find the owners of the tubes but they are too quick for us. We feel them just brush our fingers as they burrow away. "They think we are birds too," decides my first grader.

Sandpipers skitter along nearby and I see how their thin curved beaks must be just right for this job. Next time we will bring a little shovel. Our buckets are full of shells and sticks and mermaid hair.

As we head back across the wavy sand I am struck by the power of this place. The volume of water that moves back and forth twice every day, the hugeness of the sky reaching out over the water, and the vitality of the life teaming under our feet.

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