Nod to Nature

Thu, 04/28/2011 - 1:15pm
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At the top of the seventh the Red Sox are ahead. A lot can go wrong between now and the end of the game.

They are not doing as badly as I imagined, they’ve won 5 games and have lost 11. Amazingly, they are not at the bottom, the rock bottom, of the standings, inched out by the Mets who stand at 5-12. It is a minor distinction, but I am a New Englander and I expect the worst and am delighted when it is “only” this bad.

Also, I know we’ll always have 2004, the year the particular type of faith reserved for lost causes was rewarded and rewarded well.

The current status befits this slow, cool spring when even Easter is arriving nearly as late as it can.

The moon was full on Patriots’ Day, the holiday shared by Massachusetts and Maine, once part of the Bay Colony. Easter is the Sunday after the full moon after the 21st of March. It is not, as I once thought, the first day of spring, but the 21st of March.  It is a fluid date, changing every year, but for reasons beyond my understanding, it cannot be fixed on the slightly fluid time of the equinox but must start from a date certain, not one of Nature marked by Man but made by Man with a slight nod to Nature.

We do that often and sometimes see the results in our lifetimes, sometimes we need to be reminded.

There are pitfalls galore in the old records of the Town, references to events that might or might not have taken places, strange and myriad requests in the pages between the annual appointments upon which I am trying very hard to focus.

The older volumes were inclusive, written in ink on lined bound paper, with little room for error. There is a plea from the proprietor of the beach, then rented, that the town not allow any free public beaches, taking particular umbrage that two hotels (or all but two) advertised free access. It seems draconian, one of those totals disconnects with business demanding government protect its very narrow interests at the expense of everyone else. There are topics impossible to miss leafing through the years, repair of the Old Harbor Dock, parking, keeping order in the crowded summer that was not crowded in the mid twentieth century. There is the occasional document glued in place — or falling as the old yellowed tape holding it crumbles — making a doubly thick page, legal advertisements, letters from upstate about grading the Town Airfield in the ramp-up the airport being built.

Then there is the map, folder over and again, accordion-like, that begs to be unfolded, open to the light, given attention it has not received in a very long time. It is a surveyor’s plat, with a proper stamp, the paper discolored with age. It is too tempting to pass.

The date is 1953, a year before the new State pavilion would open, and it is the first section of the highway running from the first corner of Corn Neck north to the End of the Lane, where the land rises and the topography changes. It is simple, with only a few structures defined, existing or past.

The old Bathing Beach is shown, the building that stood near the turn to the New Harbor, a terminus of the old Horse Car line, on more land than seems possible. Then I realize the single boundary line is the mean high water mark, hundreds of feet to the east of the road where now the storm waves threaten the very pavement.

Making note of the Volume, without the page — sure I will remember all I need know, it is near the back of the book — and wonder how much of the loss of the shore is inevitable, like the south bluffs falling into the sea, and how much was hastened by the construction of the long granite arms of the breakwater. The ocean curls at its end, a phenomenon pointed out by visiting engineers from the Army Corp and supported by an aerial photo, a high satellite image.

Here, just a couple of miles north, away from the impact of that construction, the shore changes from week to week. It was ravaged by last weekend’s storm, nearly gone on an afternoon when the wind had shifted but the waves continued, huge, rolling, cresting far out, three or four rows of wild manes of white foam.

The sand shifted, running up to create soft inclines where there has been a sharply defined but very low bank, leaving the bones bare below to the water’s edge.  The wrack line is a litter line, all broken twigs and plastic bottle caps. The at the edges, what will be a dense cover of roses and bayberry is at an odd stage; even with tiny new leaves popping out the ground beneath is more visible than it was a month ago when I thought it was as exposed as it would be. This last blast stripped away any lingering old growth and seems to have brought in even more trash from the sea, all of it in plain view.

It will be hidden come summer and even I will think I imagined it all, balloons caught and tattered until there are only bright circles of color stuck on the would be beach roses, plastic bottles and coffee cups beneath the stark bayberry bushes. It seems there is more; I know there is more, than there was a week ago, the storm exposing our worst behaviors.

But, at the end of a foggy day the sun is shining, the daffodils are in bloom and, yes, the Red Sox managed their first away win of the season. The shad is a way from blooming, the forecast is for near freezing temperature, but I refuse to believe other than that spring has truly arrived.