28 Feb

The Great South Bay was where I learned to love the water. Not the deep off-shore water. That came later, and, like most things we experience after our childhood is a memory, that love was never as deep.

My friends and I explored the bay, the marshes, creeks and seaweed line, (I hate that newly adored term “wrack line”) often and well. But. It was when alone that I did my most serious courting. Anything of merit requires some time at least, to be reckoned in solitude. My friends, back before I met Rick Hauschildt, either weren’t interested in the bay, or didn’t manage themselves well. Not that they weren’t good bay-men, they were. They’d get out and back in any weather. They were great to go water-skiing with, or body surfing, or even fishing or clamming, but for exploring, they were more annoying than anything else. They’d eat their lunches on the way out, then get hungry. I didn’t mind the taste of raw seafood, but they did, and expected me to share my sandwiches with them. We were too close not to share, not like the uptown guys. (I once spent a day with guys I thought were friends. We got to a store and I didn’t have any money with me. They all bought stuff and didn’t share a thing. I never did spend another day with any of them.) When I was with the harbor guys, if one of us had money we’d share it equally. It took me years to discover a lunch that both my friends wouldn’t turn their nose up at, yet that I could still eat. I settled on olive-pimento-loaf. Neither of them would touch it. It wasn’t much of a victory though, I wasn’t far behind them in my appreciation of that product.

It was really that only while alone could I contemplate for as long as I chose, the beauty or wonder of what I was seeing. I remember creeks wider than I could jump, so full of herring or other small fish, that their numbers seemed to mound the water in the middle of the stream, or so it looked. I could squat for hours and watch them swim by, whereas if my friends were with me they would have tried to catch or kill those fish, as boys are want to do, with never any intention of eating them. I guess even then, the thought that I was watching something that my children wouldn’t get to see, was in my thoughts.

I loved following the old-timer’s trap lines, the water shallow and clear enough to see what was in those traps. Walking the seaweed line always led to treasure of some sort, and following a mud hen, or finding owl pellets, or watching fish breaking with seagulls diving always captured my attention.

Watching Terns, or Osprey dive for fish, time I still make sure I find to enjoy, kept me entertained by the hour. Just walking the marshes, never knowing what you might scare up, finding ancient shell middens, and occasional arrowheads, what could be better.

There was also the smells. Some people don’t like the smell of the mud flats at low tide. I suppose it’s an acquired taste, but, that smell anchored me in time, stopped me and filled me with a sense of myself and the world I loved. I remember once, deep in the world that I loved, taking a pencil out of my pocket, for no other reason than it was there. I could smell the familiar cedar smell of that pencil, and I threw it from me. That world had no place in the world that I loved.

I can still hear the drone of the outboard, the language of the herring gulls, and warmth as my hand trailed the salt water.

Nothing big, like a storm, or discovering a body, or saving someone some stranger from drowning. Those things happened, but rarely. It was the ordinary, indescribable simplicity of natures multi-sensual banquet, always available to me, that enriched me, and like a spark in a peat moss bog, the passion continues to smolder and I suppose, always will.


One Response to “”

  1. artiacovello April 23, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    As I read this, Flash’s of my own boyhood came to me, it seems that whenever I read things you’ve written about I feel the innocence of the 50’s, I always get the sense our friendship has grown because of our fondness of the simple, & natural ways we were drawn to. Choosing to be alone most of the time when I was younger, was very different from one in the little gangs of boys searching for excitement or maybe it was the solitude
    & quiet I enjoyed. You see I did have 5 brothers & 7 sisters in my home & multitudes of aunts, uncles, & cousins to get free advice from. I was the 12th out of 13 children & rarely
    escaped without making a promise of being a “Good Boy” & not getting into trouble.

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