Thursday January 30, 2014 | 08:10 AM
Posted by Harold Johnson

With the weather and various responsibilities, it had been a while since I'd been to the beach. This Tuesday I finally had to get out again. 15° or not.

So a brief break from talk of recycling and plastics, just to relish the beauty of the shore in the deepest of winter.

A brilliant sun, whose blinding light cast no warmth.

 

A saltmarsh, locked in blocks and floes of white

The morning’s highest wave, instantly frozen against the silver-gray sands of the shore

Iced sand mountains, standing like buttes in the Painted Desert, the last holdouts against the slamming waves.

The sea and shore, when no other souls are around, are a magical place. One of the oldest surviving poems in English, “The Seafarer,” written more than a thousand years ago has these lines:

“There I heard nothing but the roaring sea. The ice-cold wave.
The swan’s song, the gannet’s cry, the curlew’s call
Instead of laughter of men.
The singing gull
Instead of the drinking of mead.”

In the 20th century, Rachel Carson could write of the ocean: “To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, ... is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.”

In the end, I didn’t last too long at the beach. My layers were no match for 15° with a healthy wind. But those few minutes were the tonic that I needed.

We in Maine are lucky people.

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About the Author

Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.

Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.

Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.

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