Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crop circle in the sand

Walking along the long, deserted beach on a late-summer, Sunday afternoon, I stumble upon an unusual find.

A large deposit of sand has risen out of the channel, surrounded by a moat of pulsing water and waves.

Looking at the contours and intricate design of the beach formation, I am reminded of a crop circle, a landing pad bearing the impression of an alien ship.

A crop circle is a large pattern, created by the flattening of wheat, corn or other crops.

The film “Signs,” written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is the story of a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, family who wake up one morning to discover a 500-foot crop circle in their backyard. Extraterrestrials are responsible for the sign in their field and for crop circles all over the world. The invasion tests the family’s faith, but ultimately, they see the signs that God is watching over them.

During the last 40 years, documented cases have substantially increased, with 26 countries reporting the appearance of approximately 10,000 crop circles.

Most of those crop circles were located in southern England and positioned near Stonehenge and other ancient monuments.

However, scientific consensus is that crop circles are man-made, with a few possible exceptions due to natural phenomena.

Placing my fanciful imagination aside, I survey the sand deposit and recall what I learned in oceanography class many years ago.

I know that sand remains on a beach because it is carried uphill toward shore by unbroken incoming waves.

Normally, the sand does not go out beyond the surf zone, because the water motion beneath the waves would carry it back.

More exposed beaches, like ours along the Sakonnet River, tend to have steeper slopes and coarser sediments.

When broken waves carry sand along the beach parallel to the shoreline, it is called the littoral drift.

But sometimes, the littoral flow of sand along our coastline is interrupted.

Here at Fogland, the sand flows past the river mouth at the estuary, and strong currents carry it out to deeper water, where the sand accumulates.

Scientifically speaking, that accounts for my discovery today.

Yet on the long walk back to the summer house, I think about the crop circle in the sand – the perfectly formed pattern encircled by sea water teeming with life, the ebb and flow of the channel directed by the heavens, and each tiny grain of sand, the artistry of the Master.

I see the signs.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

'Summer is already walking the path to yesterday'

It is the time of the season when life naturally begins to accelerate, as we try to fit in a boatload of summer activities before September.
But at the same time we yearn to hold onto the feeling of space that summer brings, to rest, relax and dream.
This dichotomy comes to a head in late August, causing a frenzy of activity some days and bouts of laziness on others.
All this is amplified weekends at the summer house in Tiverton.
During the workweek we plan to spend hours at the seashore, splashing in the ocean, fishing in the cove, collecting sea glass, digging for clams.
But after lunch, we are more likely to linger at the table and sit in the backyard, reading and enjoying each other’s company.

“As August draws to a close, evenings are cool. Autumn is already in the air,” said New England author Gladys Taber, who wrote from her seventeenth-century Connecticut farmhouse. “The signs are small, but a country eye sees them. The grass no longer seems to grow overnight and need mowing. The peppers begin to turn rosy in the vegetable garden, and the tomatoes ripen.”
The weather this season has been the most erratic in memory.
June was just plain cold, and although the family gathered at the summer house, we mostly stayed inside.
July scalded us with hazy, hot and humid days, stuck in the mid-90-degree range. The month began with an invasion of Portuguese men-of-war lurking along our coastline. Then Fogland State Beach closed due to red tide. Lastly came the great white sharks spotted nearby at Gooseberry Island in Westport.

But all was forgiven as gentle August breezed in with its temperate sunny days, the stuff memories are made of. We sit at the water’s edge, content to just watch the waves roll in. But we know the days are numbered.
 “The season is changing, goldenrod and chicory mark the way. And some of the birds begin flying in formation instead of singly,” wrote Taber. “They are doing practice flights. They wheel and circle and talk a lot, and a few just cannot seem to fall in line... But when they begin to swing over the peaked roof, we know it is a sign. Summer is already walking the path to yesterday.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rose-colored beach days

The beach roses are in bloom.
Today is the kind of day you dream about on long, sunless winter days.

Awaking to bright sunshine, I stare out the window at a world that sparkles clean and fresh after yesterday’s rains.

I remember my husband gently brushing his lips across my forehead before he headed out early this morning to go fishing with our son and his friend.

Hours later, I lay in bed and smile.

Sunny weekends at the summer house in mid-August – it doesn’t get any better than this!

For my birthday my best friend gave me a blue glass token imprinted with the words: “If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough.”

Life is better at the beach, where a magical world enfolds.

Under intense blue skies, I walk along the tiny streets to the beach, passing our neighbors’ colorful cottage gardens.

Down at the rocky shore, I admire the Creator’s handiwork. The Sakonnet sparkles like diamonds reflecting the heavens.

Bringing bright splashes of color to this sandy oasis, the beach roses are in bloom and their heady scent carries on the wind.

The beach rose, which is also known by its Latin name rosa rugosa, is a flowering plant that thrives in seaside thickets, dunes and salt marshes along the Rhode Island coastline. Tolerant of spray, they bloom from June through October.

The dark green bushes or hedges, ranging from three-to-six feet tall, produce white, pink and red flowers, as well as orange-red fruit called rose hips. Their brown bark is densely covered with straight, sharp thorns.

They are also home to a menagerie of animals, including many birds that nest within its dense foliage. The fruit, which resembles small crab apples, provides sustenance to all sorts of creatures.

Although rose hips tend to be bitter and contain an abundance of seeds, they can be eaten raw, preserved in jellies or brewed for tea.

Beach roses are so common and such a familiar part of our landscape, yet they are not native to New England. The species was brought to the United States from eastern Asia in the mid-1800s.

Surrounded by hedges of fuchsia beach roses, I sit by the water’s edge, watching sailboats glide past.

Nineteenth-century New England poet Celia Thaxter said it best:

“The jeweled seas and the deeps of air, / All heaven and earth are good and fair, / Ferns at my feet and the mullein’s spike, / And the soaring gull I love alike; / With the schooner’s grace as she leans to the tide / The soul within me is satisfied.”








Sunday, August 4, 2013

The story of a blog

Long ago when I was a student at Wellesley College, I began searching for a subject for a thesis.

Five months and sixty pages later, I had written a collection of nonfiction essays about my personal connections to Fogland, our family’s summer place by the sea in Tiverton, R.I.

It received Wellesley’s Charlotte Paul Reese Memorial Prize for Creativity in Writing, which came with a $500 award.

I made a few copies of the thesis for family and friends, placed it on the bookshelf, and forgot about it.

My mother brought her copy to the summer house, which she lent to our next door neighbor.

Unbeknownst to us, she made her own copy of the thesis before returning it; and throughout the years her copy circulated in the neighborhood.

Walking along the tiny streets or by the seashore, I met neighbors and strangers, who asked me if I was the author of the thesis. Then they would share their own experiences of this special place. Often they urged me to write a book.

Three years ago I was offered the opportunity to write a Sunday column for a local online newspaper, and I suggested a nature/spirituality theme.

Singing a hymn in church that weekend, I came across the words “sea” and “sky” in the song of thanksgiving to God, which seemed to jump off the page. So I added the word “spirit,” and I had my working title.

For the next year I wrote a column every week, but at year’s end the newspaper changed its format; and I was at a crossroads.

My best friend urged me to write my own blog, and I jumped in both feet, even though I had no idea how to do it.

For the next year and a half, I wrote a post a week; and the online newspaper printed the link.

In June the newspaper changed to a more regionalized format, and for the first time I found myself flying solo.

Without my safety net, I decided to keep writing a story a week.

The amazing thing is my audience continues to grow.

Today, when I checked the stats for the number of readers, I noticed for the first time that I had gone global. There were more readers abroad than in the United States currently reading my stories.

Throughout the metamorphosis, I have never changed the reason why I began writing “Sea, Sky & Spirit” in the first place.

I want to let the world know that God loves us all, and this is most visible in the beauty of His creations. Now they know.