Friday, December 10, 2010

Low Tide in Eastham

 Last year, my husband and I spent the first  two weeks of June in a small cottage on a dune across the way from the beach. The beach was Campground Beach, one of seven beaches on Cape Cod Bay in the town of Eastham Massachusetts. This isn’t quite accurate. Campground is a landing, a place to park the car. The entire western side of Eastham is beach, one leaking into the other without interruption.

The bay side of Eastham is on a tidal flat, one of the ten largest such flats in the world. When the water goes out at low tide, it goes way out. You can almost imagine an unseen hand that came along and pulled the plug, draining out the water and leaving an endless array of s sandbars and small pools.

The dunes are high in this part of Eastham, so high that there are stairways from the cottages and landings above to negotiate them. The communal stairway from our cottage had forty six steps. I counted them once, just to see.

When the tide is out in the early morning hours, the beach is deserted but for a few walkers, a few dogs, and a few seagulls sitting on the sandbars. Pools of water shimmer blue and green into the distance. I take off my sandals at the base of the stairway and walk out on the islands of sand, the soles of my feet pushing into coolness. The sun climbs the dune. A seagull dances away from the flock, then flies off . The water between sandbars is ankle deep and ice cold. A hermit crab scurries away with an awkward sideways gait.

The sandbars are covered in ripple marks, the play of waves on sand like brushstrokes. The water will return in a few hours, erasing this handiwork, laying the canvas smooth for the next day’s etching.

Seawater shoots up, a razor clam has burrowed deeper into the safety of sand. Evidence of burrowing creatures, clams and crabs, is everywhere; little holes with fountains that erupt every few steps.

I'm not sure what this has to do with writing, except to say that the experience evades my description. I wanted to write something about the way this place changes, hour upon hour. The endlessness of it all is what strikes me most. How the bay can fill and empty again and again. How at low tide, the world becomes sun and sand and water as far as the eye can see. The constancy of this movement is a comfort. It will continue to go in and out, as surely as the earth spins on its axis. There is a peace in this, in knowing that even as I sit here, a hundred and fifty miles away in the cold of December, it changes as though I had never left.

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