The edge of the sea

The Atlantic Ocean incessantly wears away the U.S. coast.There’s something really nice, almost sensual, about wading in 57-degree waves washing great masses of seaweed like mermaids’ tresses, in and out among the rocks and around my feet. I imagine the image was not lost on sailors of long past tales.

Anyway, it was not lost to me last week when I visited Rachel Carson at her Salt Pond Preserve, on the upper reach of Muscongus Sound. She spent much of her time on the Down East coast, wading in the water, searching for signs of marine life about which she wrote in “The Edge of the Sea.”

At low tide, the quarter-acre space is nearly emptied of water, exposing tons of periwinkle snails, the aforementioned carpet of seaweed and at least one crab – the latter discovered by a young man on the far side of the pond who announced his discovery with great excitement. I’m told there are more creatures there in summer, including starfish which the lad’s mother had, in an effort to maintain his and his siblings’ interest, said might be discovered even in the late fall. “Probably not,” she thought, “but go look anyway.”

As far as the eye can discern, the surface of the bay is polka-dotted in, mostly, bright red, white, pink and blue buoys, each marking the location of sunken treasure sought by the fleet of lobster boats that wake shore-bound visitors in the early morning.

On another of my wanders, I met a woman filling plastic gallon water jugs from a faucet poking out of the wall outside her town’s fire hall. The area has been abnormally rain-less this summer; her well, and the wells of many of her neighbors, had run dry. I am told the problem has inflicted well owners across the middle of the state.

“We have an old farm. We probably need a new well,” she said, “but for now we use the town water.”

I asked her whether there was any additional cost. “No,” she said. “It’s part of our property tax.”

I haven’t heard of Adams County residents running out of water, but one of my favorite canoeing bodies – Long Pine Reservoir, in the hills above Caledonia State Park – was six feet low when I visited it about two weeks ago. (I’ve always been curious about how the only reservoir in Adams County came to be owned by a town in Franklin County.)

Marsh Creek, was nearly dry until some rain at the end of September raised the flow and nearly covered some large boulders. Unfortunately, according to a water gauge near the confluence of Marsh and Rock creeks, flow is back down from its two-day bulge and once again is too shallow for my kayak and me. The good news, of course, is with the kayak firmly sitting on the stream bottom, there is little likelihood I will tip over and sink my new camera (as I did the old one earlier in the year).

Occasional wandering in strange spheres is a commendable occupation. Mountains are my favorite places. Their frost-chiseled boulders are, after all, the source of beaches, tumbling down cold streams that grind them to sand into which youthful humans impress footprints too easily erased by the waves.

But lying at the edge of the sea, watching the moon glitter a path across the bay, is a close second. Seagulls and Common Eiders cavort on the near stage. The waves continually angle across the rocks like a constantly sweeping broom, clearing clutter and flotsam from the garage floor of my mind, generating notions to pursue when one returns home.

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