Monday, February 20, 2012

An ancient conversation

This has been a very quiet winter on the shore. Few storms, not much wind, little surf. We were out on Friday and Saturday afternoons, at Ash Point and Crockett's Beach, respectively, and while the dog pounced on wavelets and investigated sea urchins and sniffed at stones and dug frantically at the ghostly trails of clams in the sand, we gazed quietly out to sea at the islands.

The shore at Ash Point is all stones and rock. Crockett's is a shingle beach, one that has sand but that reveals it only at low tide. I always feel more comfortable at the former (even though the dog rejoices in the flat wet stick-retrieving sand of the latter). There's a sharper definition of boundary - solid to liquid with no mushy, lazy stuff in between. And waves talk better on rocks than on sand. I'm reminded of what John O'Donohue, the Irish priest turned Celtic mystic, wrote about the Burren in his native Conamara: "For millions of years, an ancient conversation has continued between the chorus of the ocean and the silence of the stone." (from Anam Cara: the Book of Celtic Wisdom) Sand seems too civilized; at any moment I expect chattering people wearing lotion and bearing coolers to appear. Sands shift. The "beach" is a human construct. There's a reason why most beaches ban such an instinctive thing as a dog.

In fact, words should fail us at the shore. We should listen to ancient primitives, within and without, and understand when to sing and when to rest.

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