The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Sea Change

The Atlantic Ocean incessantly wears away the U.S. coast.The sky brightens as though on a timer announcing 6 a.m. The sun isn’t really up, yet, but its warming rays are bending over the horizon, illuminating the knotty pine boards of the bedroom loft’s western wall.

The rain has finally tired, leaving only the sound of incessant wave action rubbing away at the shore with the soft-sounding, powerful strokes of a woodworker rubbing the surface of a boat’s wooden molding. The smoothness of the sound belies the power peeling layer after layer of ancient minerals and stirring them into the sea.

Somewhere to my south, a hurricane threatens to submerge Miami, Florida.

About 11 miles to seaward, according to the chart pinned to a living room wall, a lighthouse flashes every 15 seconds, warning sailors to miss the light and make port, or hit the light and spend eternity parked on the rocks.

The intervening sea takes the appearance of a pot of molten plumber’s lead, virtually undisturbed except for a shoal, a couple hundred yards from where I sit. Barely submerged beneath the molten surface, it intercepts rolling inbound ripples and pushes them into tall foamy breakers that splash up in free celebration.

Seagulls roost along the shore rocks, just out of reach of the crashing foam.

A trio of seagulls joyfully set their wings and coast, right to left, high to low, as though riding a children’s slide. Nearly out of sight, they run out of altitude and, not being done with the game, flap like crazy back high to my right, turn and set for the long downhill run on the invisible slide.

Tell me again about dumb animals that don’t know what they are doing, acting solely out of instinct. I’ll beg to differ. One of the gulls, I am sure, is a direct descendant of Richard Bach’s trouble-making bird, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” leading a few wannabe trouble makers astray.

We know what happens if the grownups catch  on. Two of them will point a wing at the third and whisper, “It was his idea!”

I pad downstairs in my bare feet and step out onto the porch to discover the on-shore breeze not as cold as it, and the calendar, made it seem. Maples and birches are preparing for the Fall celebration party, trading summer green for bright reds and yellows. The blazing colors will not last long.

People “from away” have purchased this small piece of shorefront, then put the cottage up for rent when they are not using it, like a time-share without the forever mortgage. We save up during the year to contribute to the owner’s retirement fund, an acceptable trade for some time away from work and terrorists.

Lines etched on a school bus-sized rock, visible on Google Earth against the granite plain in front of the cottage, mark the high and low tides like a kitchen doorframe recording the inexorable growth of regularly fed children. It’s difficult to know whether the water is deeper now than when we first visited, three years ago. As with children, an inch or so in a year is hardly noticeable. Then one day you look and they’re suddenly taller than their parents.

Mother Nature does not care about the money and effort we have spent making this rock-bound sliver habitable. She will adjust. Climate temperature rises, the ice sheet covering Greenland melts, and the ocean in front of my vacation spot becomes deeper.

In another generation, maybe two, someone’s offspring – whoever owns the property behind my current vacation spot – will stand on a new porch, point toward the sea, and describe to their incredulous progeny the cottage that once stood “right about there.”


  1. So much enjoyed your site!

    Shirley Lamdan, CLU

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