There was Land

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 11:30am
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March 2010 — These days of high tides and high surfs make the last stretch of Corn Neck Road, the southern end, out beyond the protection of the dunes, feel like a bridge the water is so near. 

We have two roads that tempt the sea, this short stretch where the telephone poles bend, showing the way of the wild wind, and Spring Street, above Pebbly Beach, and both have been eaten by an angry ocean, both have had their edges gnawed away.

March 2012 — The spring tides are running high. Along the beach road where the ocean always feels near this afternoon it seemed closer. I stopped at the monument and looked north and south and in both directions, where rocks were dumped in a futile effort to stop the march of Nature, there was no shore, not even a glimmer of a stoney strand. The surf, the soft little waves that are the norm there, was up to the rip-rap. 

Sandy came at the end of October 2012 and did more than gnaw at the edges of those referenced roads. What skips from memory was the March storm a few years’ previous, the one that caused the first loads of rock, the “rip-rap” mentioned more than seven months before the Superstorm, to be dumped along the bank, that futile attempt at stopping the fury of the ocean. 

It confounds me that people insist on talking of the two islands that will be created when the ocean comes through where the land is narrowest, where the New Harbor shore runs close to the west side of Corn Neck Road. I’d say it is the politics of distraction, but that makes no sense.

Never mind that there used to be land on the seaward side of that southern end of Corn Neck Road, so much that the first jail was located there, a little building with a stoop. Who arrested the people put in this jail was never quite clear in stories, the thrust of which was consistent, the ease of escape from the box built on sand. 

There was land there in the long plat map folded into a Land Evidence Volume in the Town Hall vault, together with an Act of the General Assembly, whereby the title to the whole of Crescent Beach was quieted and Town ownership definitively established.

The width of the once-upon-a-time beach varies among memories but one thing is certain, there was a beach, across from the Solviken site, below the remaining monument, more than a tiny strip of sand reachable only at low tide. 

There is a march of nature that cannot be stopped, but I wonder if it is not as screamingly obvious to someone not traveling the Neck Road every day the year-round. There are little dunes, now, on the landward side of that road, which should not come as a surprise; the winter east winds throw little dunelets across the pavement. 

We know the sea roars in wherever it can in a bad storm, we saw evidence of that after Sandy all along the shore, where little paths with entrances camouflaged by an angled way were blown open. 

Wind driven sand is the same. Some will remember it when I mention there was a different path from the Mansion parking lot to the beach, wide, between banks of roses. It took some years to close after the parking lot and access were reconfigured, first the level of it rising until in winter, when the leaves were gone, one could look down and see a real drop on either side. The roses grew closer as the traffic lessened; I know the winter jacket I was wearing, of a dark green material not easily snagged by thorns, the last time I went that way, with the certain realization it would be the last time.

That the path was gone was of no matter, there was another way, more suited to beach-goers with ever-increasing amounts of stuff, but it was a stunning realization how much sand had relocated, not dragged out to sea but pushed inland. 

It is obvious, now, before the beach grass turns green, along the whole stretch of land between Scotch and Town beaches, where sand covers the west facing backs of the dunes. There are winters I look to the east and those dunes appeared less high, and I wonder if they are truly less in overall size, or if the tops have just blown back.

Then there is the Town Beach parking lot, my affliction. I see it only when I am headed south, coming out of the Neck, and I have come to think I should just stop looking but like the wreck on the highway, it draws my attention. 

The dunes that grew in front — on the landward side — of the pavilion until they held beach grass and roses, until they were protected coastal features, the removal of which was sanctioned only as part of the Sandy clean-up, are again on the rise. The southeast end of the parking lot has been lost to an avalanche. A few summers ago I wrote that the heavy wooden fence was “meant to make the lot a vehicle pen, isolated and protected from the march of Nature” had proved a failure; it has vanished as totally as that path to Mansion, or grandly, ancient ruins lost to the sands of the Sahara.

But there is a distraction, now, from what is happening before our eyes, the housing for the cable is being put in place with great pieces of equipment that could easily reconfigure the parking lot but for a plethora of agencies in the way.

The moon is new, the tides are extreme, the east beach long and wide and covered with great big toys while the sea is calm, curious even, with little appearance of wanting to rush in and cover the sand. 

There are now new moon low tides delightful on a sunny March day; better to not think about things over which I have no control.