Since we last met, June has made her arrival and with her plenty of last-minute late-spring activities. Here at Dandelion House I’ve been sowing seeds in the raised beds and borders, preparing for a yard sale this coming weekend with my momma, and car shopping for our oldest. I’m happy to announce he finally found one that fit his budget and one he loves! He didn’t give into impulses to spend beyond his means and when the right one came along he was ready. Life has been non-stop in our world but I stole away to Henry Beston’s ” Solitary Dune” every chance I could to finish reading his book, The Outermost House. Have you been reading your copy too? I thought I might have caught a glimpse of some of you walking the beach at low tide, chasing birds into flight just to watch them from their perfect flight patterns, and star-gazing on a perfectly clear autumn night. Come on in and let’s chat about our time away in the dune tops!How I ever went this long without reading this book is a mystery to me. But, no sense crying over spelt milk. In many ways this was the perfect time to do it and I’m so happy that some of you have joined me for this little read along on the shorelines, which really turned out to be a beautiful meditation on the creative life forces of nature.
Having spent time on the beach and in our own tiny ” outermost house” off and on for over 25 years much of what Henry witnessed and experienced during his ” year of life ” on the great beach of Cape Cod rang true for me and at the same time I learned, well, that I still have a lot to learn about our own ” little ” great beach. I’ve seen many species of land birds and sea birds over the years and I’m well aware that they come and go with the seasons for eating, mating, nesting, and resting but I still don’t know their names, origins and what makes our little stretch of beach so attractive to them. My observations seem faint and shallow compared to Henry’s but then again, he didn’t have two young galloping sea horses to keep an eye on either! Still, he has inspired me to do better.
Maybe being aware is the first step! I’ve got that one down. Just don’t ask me for anything scientific. I can identify seagulls, turns, cormorants, snowy owls, red-winged black birds, mourning doves, robins, piping-plover, ring-necks, osprey, hawks, sparrows, finches, robins, hummingbirds, blue jays and blue birds and doves, but the number of species are mind-boggling! We keep a musty smelling vintage copy of Northeast Shore Birds in our cottage for quick reference ( and smart phones help too ) but my mind doesn’t take hold of that sort of information. It’s like a sieve when it comes to remembering names. For whatever reason, my brain is a sponge when it comes to remembering colors, shapes, sights, sounds and smells very well. Names, not so much!
” The seas are the heart’s blood of the earth. Plucked up and Kneaded by the sun and the moon, the tides are systole and diastole of earth’s veins. ” Henry Beston.
I think I could read the chapter titled The Headlong Wave a dozen more times before I fully understand the beauty and magnitude of the surf I so casually take for granted when I walk along the water’s edge on a sunny summer day. Ya see, I’m no storm chaser but I have experienced chasing waves along the rugged northern pacific coast and body surfing in the warm ocean water on the islands of Maui and Honolulu. After the worst of hurricane Sandy passed we rushed down to the nearest beach to watch the churning surf. My handsome Yankee even went swimming!
Many nights we can hear the surf through our open bedroom windows from inside the cottage. The perfect lullaby to fall asleep to on a calm night by the sea.
Late summer thunder storms are a different story all together. We experienced the worst kind of storm while staying in our cottage several years ago when the kids were still little skippers. A night very much like Beston’s “Night On The Great Beach”.
Our kids were under the age of 5 at the time. We had gone to bed and were sound asleep only to be jolted awake by loud booms of thunder and crackling lightning strikes. The sky lit up like someone had flipped a switch on an enormous strobe light. The light would flicker for a few seconds and it would be dark again. Then the thunder would roar all over again. While some might love a good lightning storm, we fear them at the beach because all of us have gas tanks on the outside of our cottages. One chance strike by lightning and it’s all over. We watched the lightning flash over the bay for nearly two hours praying the strikes wouldn’t get too close. Then the UN imaginable happened. A cottage in the dunes just down in front of us was hit and went up in flames. It burned to the ground within hours. Good fortune was with the owner that day though. She has been staying there up until the day of the storm. She drove off the beach for a doctors in the late afternoon with plans to return the following day which she did only to find the charred remains of her beach shack in the dunes. Fortunately, that cottage has since been rebuilt and the family still enjoys it to this day.
It’s always a relief when morning calm returns after ” a night on the GREAT BEACH “.
Is it the calmness that calls us back to the beach again and again? Or is it the opportunity to be close to nature in a relaxed setting where one can let the mind wander and wonder while soaking in the magic of the sea?
I think Henry had the perfect balance of solitude and human contact during his outermost house experiment don’t you? He was never truly alone with the men from the Nauset Coast Guard Station nearby and his weekly trip to town for supplies. And he had something most of us only dream about. A year away to observe mother nature in her creative glory. One day she’s happy and light, the next she’s a Tasmanian sand devil but she’s always there offering up her many gifts, if you dare to receive them.
Don’t fret if you haven’t finished the book just yet ( or if you want to, jump on board and start now ) we’ll let our book discussion rest here in the peaceful waters on the outermost cape.
If you have a few minutes watch this beautiful video of The Cape Cod National Sea Shore. It’s lovely.
Be sure to come back and tell me all about your time in the ” solitary dunes” with Henry! I’ll be waiting…
Until our next shoreline visit~
BEACH BLESSINGS and happy reading!
Sister Deb # 1199