In these waning days of August, I am grateful to have rediscovered the pleasure of beach and sand and leisure. My favorite beach, Goose Rocks, on the southern coast of Maine, runs two miles between two tidal-fed rivers. Three summers ago, Marv and I sold our beloved cottage at the rear of the east end of the beach. We bought it nearly twenty-five years ago as an investment for our later years. After we turned the keys over, I needed time to mourn; for two summers, I could not bear to revisit.
Thankfully, this past week, renting a sweet house on the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge on a marsh at the west end of the beach, changed all that. Old memories were replaced by new ones— similar, yes, but filled with a refreshed sense of wonder. Although two summers had passed, my body slid into groove. The tide was right. I navigated straight north, onto the wet, open tidal flats to the rock-filled island usually below the surface.
After a rain, in solitude, I walked the long expanse. I felt soothed as I rocked up and down on the tilted triangular rises etched by gravity’s pull. It was as it had always been—on every return, the impetus to scan for limpets, the dome shaped gastropod shell I collected and piled into two-quart jars all those past summers. I was not disappointed. Almost immediately, a tiny but perfect shell revealed its presence. As always, I cupped it into the palm of my hand and spoke to it, giving thanks to the universe for what was beautiful and familiar, my welcoming talisman.
Such focus, the blend of heart and body, the breadth of beach, the lull of the surf is possible only at the edge. It is the synchronicity of pulse, breath, the rhythm of the watery wash, which infuses and inspires my spirit to search. I welcome anew the remnants of what is hidden beneath the ocean’s surface. Each limpet, whether blue or brown, whether etched with fresh markings or worn and faded white, offers a story of a life once lived beneath the sea.
The limpet cleaves out its permanent shelter by boring into a rock, shaping a ridge to fit its form. Daily, it swims with the rise of the tide, searching for food, making its way back as the tide recedes. The limpet’s propensity to return to the rock’s ridge is attributed to some type of chemical response. It leaves a trail of chemical markers, its own individual protein and polysaccharide signature, which cannot be scrubbed off and which endlessly provides the limpet with the cues for its homecoming. This remarkable member of the gastropod family is among the oldest forms on the planet, a survivor over eons.
The limpet evokes and holds memory, the promise and pleasure of my own leap into the tide of rising words and the gratitude that flows as my pen shapes images and stories onto the page.