Monday, October 27, 2008

The Sands of Time

Why does the beach always make me thoughtful? Is it because I come to the beach so seldom, and it's always something special in my life? Does it make me think about the eternal nature of the ocean and shore, and my own ephemeral existence?

Today, we walked along the pristine beach at Bon Secour NWR, a spot sheltered from commercial activity, and too remote for casual beach walkers. It was like being the first people on a newly discovered land. There were no human footprints. The wind blew little mini-dunes in the sand. No beer cans. No tire tracks. No volleyball nets. The road itself was half gone. Only the birds left footprints, and they ignored us for the most part. The Ruddy Turnstone was more interested in an afternoon bath. The shells had both the top and bottom halves still together, and were propped upright in the sand. We saw the prints of a large feline earlier in the morning - a bobcat? The Alabama Beach Mouse is an endangered species, and we searched for small tracks that might belong to one. We saw tunnels under the sand and have no idea what creature made it.

As we walked up over the dunes to a spot listed on the Birding Trail, I commented that we would be able to easily find our way back to the car since ours were the only tracks around. To my surprise, after only 15 minutes at the bog, our footprints were already blowing away! If we had stayed for an hour, they would have been gone completely. Humankind is like that, leaving a mark on the world, or making a mess of things, rather than just a mark. Then mother nature has to clean up after us. On the beach, she's a pretty determined house keeper.

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