The Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve's Fourth Annual Coastal Conference will be held Dec. 6 - 7 at the Hyannis Resort and Conference Center. Writers and artists have been invited to submit work to be displayed, and the following is a short piece I contributed. I post it this particular week as a gentle contrast to the turmoil and vitriol of these days, as a reminder to stay focused on what is good and real in our lives.
It’s a short walk from my house to a saltwater beach, and I consider daily access to the sight, sound, smell, and feel of the sea a privilege and a luxury. About a month ago I was out for a walk with a friend at Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, Massachusetts. We stopped and stood looking out across the cold, glittering, blue-green December waters of Cape Cod Bay. A powder-blue sky sprawled above me and a few gulls hovered hopefully overhead. A winter beach is the right time and place to watch the sea here, for you have no distracting thoughts of swimming or snorkeling or sailing or sunbathing when the air and water temperatures are both fairly near freezing. When you stand on a winter beach, the ocean’s majesty and immensity, its pure beauty, are unmarred. Without nearby parents fussing over towels and coolers or jet skis roaring past just offshore, you sense its innate power whether the waters are wind-whipped or placid. I spotted something on the horizon, a dot that grew larger by the minute. We could see it was a container ship, probably out of Boston, heading for the Cape Cod Canal to our left. By the time we were able to see a red tugboat pulling the mammoth vessel, they both passed into the canal and out of sight. Standing on this coastal shore on a winter day in the 21stcentury, imagination provides what progress has destroyed. In my mind’s eye the bay becomes crowded, as it once was, with wooden-hulled vessels and white sails, not metal, computer-run ships. This is the same historic bay that Pilgrims entered nearly five centuries ago, rejoicing with songs of praise to God for the very sight of land after their harrowing voyage across the Atlantic. I rejoice in my nearness to the sea they braved, and count myself supremely wealthy for it.