Notes from The Tidal Estuary
Last week I lived among oaks and pitch pines on a bend
in a saltwater estuary on the coast of Maine. The tidal
rhythms became inseparable from the flow of my breath,
the beat of my heart, the pace of my walking, and the pull
and lift of my kayak paddle.
Water, that healer in us and around us, collaborated with
sun and salt, marsh grass and seal, bladderwrack and wind,
to create the high note of this waning summer, a season full
of the challenges and the beauty of living on our planet
at this time in its long history.
Coming to the marsh from the lush maple and conifer forest
where I live, and from the wild tangle of yellow sunflowers, corn,
pumpkin vines, and ripe tomatoes overrunning my gardens, opened
space in and around me. The estuary held me in a way I didn't know
I needed to be held.
I succumbed with gratitude to its spell.
A pair of bald eagles followed the kayak up the river, then watched
from the tall branches of a pine. A seal surfaced near the tip of my
paddle. A large creature - seal? fish? - lifted from the water
and splashed down hard, right behind the boat, spraying my back.
The sun held on at the end of each day in beams of misty golden haze.
Wildfire smoke journeyed down from Canada. Cricket song
and the unending buzz of cicadas drowned my thoughts.
Like the marsh at low tide, my mind emptied.
On the beach, the surf purred and roared. I eased slowly into the
the cold north Atlantic water. When the tide came in, I floated
at the river's mouth on currents traveling upstream from the sea.
Mornings and evenings, I sat on the screened porch of a cabin, perched
above the marsh, shaded by the sand barren's forest. Acorns fell
from oak trees in arhythmic plunks on the metal roof, the inevitable
return of seeds to the ground. Late summer filled me.
Now, just several days away from the autumnal equinox, I feel
a collective exhalation, the slow release of summer's wild growth.
Because the marsh offered me a place to pause for a full week in sunshine,
warmth, and humid air, I feel ready for the shift. My breath deepens and slows.
The kitchen fills with the sharp scents of tulsi and Genovese basil, as plump
tomatoes, baskets of tromboncino squash, and ears of corn pile up on the counters.
In the meadow, sunny goldenrod, our fireweed, browns at its tips, signaling
the end of summer.
I imprint the flow of the tidal marsh in my body as best I can. I close my
eyes and feel its rhythms pulsing in my blood. If I can hold this gift in the
weight and heaviness and beauty that is coming, I might embody some
of the estuary's strength. I might more consistently greet the day anchored
to my inner tidal flow. One breath in. One breath out. Inseparable from all
animate beings, living and dying, everywhere.