Tag Archive 'low tide'

May 26 2024

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Intertidal Fecundity

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Once again Judy and I rented a cottage on the Maine Coast for a week, and once again I couldn’t resist the urge to walk to a small, rocky island just off Goose Rocks Beach. For days I watched a spit of the sandy beach reach towards the island at low tide, but it didn’t seem to connect. Then it did, although very briefly. So the next morning early, I timed my walk so that I’d reach the narrowing channel between beach and island right when the tide was lowest. It worked. I stepped onto the island without getting my feet wet.

The sun, just above the northeastern horizon, shined brilliantly through the cloudless sky. No breeze stirred the still waters, and temps rose quickly through the 50s and into the 60s. The beginning yet another beautiful day. I felt lucky to be alive and kicking. I ventured onto the island’s rock-strewn, uneven ground, careful as to where I stepped… all the time looking downward…

That’s when I realized that I could hardly step anywhere without stepping on some kind of life-form: periwinkles, barnacles, clams and more. These rocks, underwater during most of any given day, are covered with marine animals. I have witnessed this many times before, but can’t get used to this intertidal fecundity. I knelt down and turned over one rock after another. Beneath every rock, tiny hard-shelled aquatic animals moved about, along with translucent creatures barely visible to the naked eye. Had I remembered to bring my hand lens, I would have seen much more, I’m sure.

When I went to pick up and look under one rock, it started moving. That took me by surprise. It was a crab doing its best to look like a rock, now that it was exposed. Fortunately, I came upon it before any of the nearby shorebirds did.

Gulls, godwits, and other shorebirds were busy feeding in the shallow waters nearby, just off the island. No doubt they were finding plenty to eat. I was pretty hungry myself, so I hiked back to the cottage to consume a bowl of granola cereal. Yeah, we all have to eat. Gotta keep those inner fires stoked. Life forms come into being, eat as they mature, reproduce and die. It’s the eternal cycle of life. And nowhere is this more obvious than on a shoreline at low tide.

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Jun 07 2014

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By the Sea

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low tideFecund. That’s the word leaping to mind as I walk the Maine shoreline at low tide. At my feet lies the detritus of the ocean: shells mixed with seaweed, spread along the beach as far as the eye can see. Knotted wrack, barnacles and snails cling to every square inch of nearby rocks exposed by the retreating sea. In shallow tide pools I find more snails, hermit crabs, and so many smaller life forms that it seems the water itself is alive.

My wife Judy takes a wider view – her eyes locked on the distant horizon as the incessant, low roar of crashing waves washes her mind free of mundane thoughts. Impermanence is the word that leaps to her mind, and the shifting sands underfoot confirm it. All human constructs are like the sand castles built along the shore that the incoming tide dissolves.

A few days later, we board a 65-foot boat that takes us twenty miles off shore, to the feeding grounds of finback whales. For an afternoon we are sandwiched between low, gray clouds and sea swells. The edge of land grows fainter in the mist until it disappears altogether, unsettling a landlubber like me. When the captain kills the boat’s engine, all we can hear is water spraying upward from blowholes as those behemoths surface.  Their slick bodies shimmer in the dull light as they break skyward. Then they disappear beneath the waves. When finally we see one sucking in the ocean with its great mouth, we get a sense of what’s going on here.  “Lunchfeeding,” the captain calls it – tons of fish converting into tons of whale.

Back home, hundreds of miles inland, I return to my daily routine and the comfort of a green world that makes more sense to me. But for a few days I was reminded that we live on a water planet along with countless other life forms both great and small. The ocean is humbling, to say the least. I can’t grasp the sheer magnitude of it.

 

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