Friday, May 28, 2010

Tidal pools and tidal change

Pine Point, Maine. The beach has really changed this year. Over the winter there were at least three Nor’easters that settled off the coast and dumped all that rain on New England. The storms produced abnormally high tides and surf that flooded many of the coastal towns and did serious damage to the shore line. At the southern end of Saco Bay, the Ferry Beach area seems to have been hit particularly hard and lost a lot of its sand, much of which appears to have come across the bay to the north side where Pine Point lies. The beach here, which used to be a nice gradual slope from the edge of the sea grass down to the high tide mark, is now a pretty significant drop from high to the low tide flats. The flats used to dry out fairly quickly at low tide, allowing for games of softball, touch football and the like to be played on the hard sand. Since the last of the storms, low tide is really low and the flats seem to be perpetually wet, crisscrossed with meandering streams sliding into new tidal pools. Where you used to be able to walk for miles along the beach in a simple straight line at whatever pace you chose, you now have to choose your steps carefully, jumping over waterways and pools so as to keep the sneakers dry. To go barefoot is not really an option yet for a long walk or a run as the sand quickly does a number on the soles of feet only just appearing from winter hibernation and not yet summer hardened.


I find the new tidal pools to be of interest not just because they are something new to the landscape. They hold all sorts of critters that haven’t been regular low-tide visitors to Pine Point beach before. Small crabs, miniscule shrimp, snails, brown and furry sand dollars, tiny clams, even a hermit crab or two surprised perhaps to find themselves this far north have become trapped for time, awaiting their parole with the arrival of high tide. There are a few other things that I’ve never seen before, mollusks and water bugs and such. Next time I come up, I’ll make sure to pack my “Field Guide to the New England Coast.”


I almost wish I was a young boy again, able to play in the pools, digging them deeper and adding canals upon which I could sail bright plastic boats transformed by the whim of imagination into any sort of water-bound vessel sailing from lagoon to lagoon on goodness knows what adventure. That’s why it’s so nice to have nieces and nephews as company on the beach. One can indulge in play by proxy by watching them and their imaginations take flight.


The town has been cleaning the beach this week. When I first saw the large caterpillar tractors and front end loaders further down near the town beach, I thought they were going to regrade the sand. While on a walk later on I asked one of the workers if that was the case but he said it was illegal to regrade since state law requires the beach to stay natural. All they were doing was picking up the old seaweed, trash, and logs that had come ashore over the winter. With a bit of wry smile, he said if the beach happened to get flatter as result that was not intended. Where they have finished, the grade was a bit flatter but not by much.


I found myself further on leaning against a big log that hadn’t been removed yet. It was an unseasonably warm day for late May, hot even, as the wind was still a land breeze. I started thinking of all the years I had been fortunate enough to come to this beach with my family. This is the first year my parents will not be coming to the beach for summer vacation. Dad is at an age now where he is only really comfortable at home. Mom will be able to come up for a few days here and there but she doesn’t like to leave him for very long even if my sister is at home with him. One of my dad’s cousins and her husband came out the other day for an afternoon at their cottage. It sits next door to ours. She’s in a wheelchair now and even though they are Mainers and don’t live that far away, her visits are less and less frequent. Like my parents, her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren now have the run of the cottages.


Much like the effects of the tides and winter storms, we can’t stop the inevitability of change in our lives. As family and friends populate our lives, there is loss and grief but also life, new birth, and new generations, all a wonderful gift from God. May His Name be praised.

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