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Volume 15, Issue 21 ~ May 24 - May 30, 2007

Bay Reflections

The Pleasures of Summer

How about meeting these days with a zestful swirl, a colorful, impassioned twirl?

by Elizabeth Ayres

Ocean waves are horses with foaming mouths, ridden by witches wielding reins of seaweed. So say the Mapuche people of Chile, and who should know better? On a map, their land looks like a long thin blade of seagrass flung shoreward by the vast Pacific.

Waves could be an angry Na-maka-o-kaha’i, Hawaiian goddess of the sea. Or a capricious Neptune, prodding at the surface with his trident to make a spot of trouble for some sailors.

Such stories came to me yesterday as I paced a shell-strewn beach, plucking at words, trying to describe to myself the look of sunlight on the Bay’s wind-ruffled water. Gleam, glitter, sparkle? No, jewels are too inert. Dance, laugh, play? That’s better, more alive, but what about awe and reverence for something totally beyond, utterly other? Something I can never hope to possess or control, can only aspire to meet, greet, encounter.

That’s when I felt it, a primal need to populate those mysterious waves with beings divine or demonic, and like the surf so sibilant at my feet, half-remembered legends lapped the edges of my mind.

Later, I perched atop a wild spume of silvering driftwood. Amidst a flurry of scricks and clicks, a tern had coaxed its fledgling to a piling just offshore. She would skim the glistening ripples, swoop up, fall down straight as a plumb bob, disappear with a splash, then reappear in a skyward zoom, fish secured in her beak.

With a flurry of shrieks and screams, a young girl ran to, then from, to and from, to and from the water where it shimmied onto sand. Her father grabbed her, hoisted her onto his back, then the mother took a snapshot of the pair. A white-haired couple plodded along, their white-haired dog racing ahead in a flurry of barks and yips, chasing a lone, white gull.

Zest of Chesapeake, above, and below? From my sea-sculpted seat I pictured some of our Bay’s more exotic denizens. The exuberant bristles and paddle-shaped feet of the clamworm. The prickly bumps of starfish skeleton, poking out through the skin of radiant starfish arms. And, needing neither witch rider nor seaweed reins, our very own hippocampus erectus, the lined seahorse.

Could a more improbable creature be imagined? A horse’s head, a kangaroo’s pouch, a fish’s fins, a lizard’s eyes, a dinosaur’s bony plates, a monkey’s prehensile tail, a chameleon’s wardrobe and wafting, skin-like appendages that imitate algae to fool predators. They have no teeth, no stomach, but scarf up 4,000 brine shrimp a day. Seahorses mate for life, and only males get pregnant. Every morning of their wedded life, the blissful couple greets each other by linking tails, twirling around, changing colors, then dancing off in opposite directions.

In this issue, Bay Weekly celebrates the beginning of summer by offering a guide to the pleasures of the season. I looked the word up in the dictionary. Pleasure means the enjoyment of what is good, and I thought, wow, those seahorses are onto something. How about getting up every morning and meeting the day with a zestful swirl, a colorful, impassioned twirl?

We are, after all, improbable creatures, spirits wed to clay, divine sparks flung on the wood of this world in hopes of a fine, bright conflagration. Or maybe it’s a joyous dance our maker had in mind?

As I left the beach yesterday, a pair of swans alighted on the tidal pool. Partners for life, they say, although sometimes swans cheat, reneging on their commitment. I said a little prayer to bolster my own commitment to fishing terns and shrieking children, old folks, dogs, gulls. Light playing tag with the sparkling water. Waves laughing themselves onto shore. All the sweet and, yes, the sour this day, this life shall offer. We are very, very good together. In such union may you all find pleasure.

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