As I write this, the temperatures outside hover in the 20s and 30s and the ground is covered with a thin layer of snow and ice. It’s perfectly understandable, living in the Northeast in mid-December, that I should complain about the weather because it’s just what we do up here. What we also do up here is fantasize about an early spring while reminiscing about the good times that were had during the recently departed summer. We also start pining for the days yet to come when we will, once again, be beached like gams of whales at this or that spot along a sandy shoreline at our favorite stretch of coast.
So it was this morning, as I came across some phone pics, that I found myself drifting back to a very early morning last July when I was little more than a beached Hermit strolling up and down the shores of mine and Daisy’s most favorite spot along the North Atlantic coast.
It is incumbent upon me, before we go too far here, that I acknowledge the seemingly contradictory notion that a hermit would want any part in commingling with a sea of humanity at the Ocean’s edge. The key to success for the tried-and-tested strategy behind having such a popular destination all to yourself lies in how early you get there and how quickly you leave. I have learned over the years that if you can’t get there before everyone wakes up and gets breakfast then you might as well not even bother going. And your cue for knowing when it’s time to hit the exits is the arrival of the first set of parents with kids in tow that have no interest in getting along with their siblings, calming the fuck down, and enjoying the view.
On this particular excursion, thanks to my daughter’s willingness to get up stupid early on a Saturday morning (notwithstanding a fair amount of initial protest), Daisy and I hit the beach shortly after sunrise and immediately headed for the most remote corner of this location. I have visited this spot, consistently, for the better part of 40 years inconsiderate #1 on a very short list of places that I go to unwind, recharge, and meditate (more or less) using the raw and most powerful natural forces as my physical and spiritual “white noise”.
It was a Rockwell postcard sort of day, with perfectly clear pale blue skies and the compulsory bitch fights between seagulls and cormorants… each, in turn, pronouncing to the bird world that they had – at long last – come upon the perfect snack in this or that shallow pool that had been exposed as the tide went out. The big seagull over there on the left, with more or less a dappled appearance, was heading to shore to break open his little crab breakfast while 3 big standard black and whites, over there on the right, were mustering up a conspiracy to get it away from him.
The cormorants abandoned the fight and worked their way back to the rocks, after several futile dives, and commenced with the job of airing out their wings and pooping a new layer of white paint on their landing strips. It occurred to me, in that moment, that – more than any other aviator along the seashore – I find the cormorants most fascinating to watch. To be sure, they are not very pretty and they don’t appear to be terribly majestic. Their takeoffs and landings seem clumsy and awkward somehow, and their heads and beaks aren’t terribly well-suited for each other. Having said that, however, after having seen them swim underwater at another one of my favorite spots, I am quite sure that they are just about the coolest mashups of land and sea creatures ever made; on the one hand they can fly, but on the other they fly much more efficiently below the surface of the ocean then they do above it.
As we had been taking all of this in, Daisy and I were curled up in a bed of drying seaweed and munching on our respective brunches. The tide had gone all the way out and was starting to turn itself around and make its way back in. The Sun was high enough above us to suggest we were running out of hermit time. And, as if right on cue, I noticed that Daisy kept looking back toward shore. Knowing what that meant without even having to look, I worked my way to a standing position and turned to look in the direction her nose was pointed. Sure enough… humanoids were starting to arrive, en masse, with their waddling broods in tow… it became painfully clear that it was time to make like Elvis and exit the building.
I gathered up our supplies and threw the remnants of our meals out toward the edge of the seaweed bed, knowing full well – with maximum malice aforethought – that I had just set the stage for another bird riot to kick off.
We worked our way back to the beach, from our remote spots at the outer edge of the point, and headed back toward the public entrance. It occurred to me as we were walking, weaving in and out of the gathering masses… many of whom, apparently, had never seen a dog before… That being successful as a socialized hermit requires the ability to flip personality switches as situations dictate. In order to blend in with the rest of society, you have to be at least moderately sociable so as to not draw undue attention to yourself while maintaining the ability to tune all of that out the instant you reach your isolation destination. It’s an art, really, but one truly worth the effort to master.
Once we reached the parking lot, having cleared the gauntlet without major injury, Daisy and I settled in for the 30-minute wait to be gathered up and taking back home. I smile to myself, here and there as people greeted us and asked if my dog was friendly before patting her and loving on her, that my dog and I really do balance each other out. Where I like to reside in my bubble… no touching, no handshaking, no fist-bumping , and fergawdsakes no hugging… Daisy would prefer to be inside your skin.
Whoever it was that nicknamed the dog as man’s best friend clearly understood the value a canine adds to a human’s life. Where the one prefers to be left the hell alone, the other soaks up all the attention and seeks it out wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. There’s an analogy in that somewhere, but I will leave it to the reader to sort through the possibilities for themselves.