I stood in the shallows and watched as the waves pulled and a small sandbar touched through the sea. The moon was waning, which meant that the tide wasn’t as dramatic as it can be in the Northumberland Strait.
Behind me, my youngest child walked along the beach near the clay cliff. It’s a good place to explore and, as he wasn’t near the water, I let him amble off. He stopped and inspected something in the sand and called out, “a baby dragon!”
Another child was in the water by then. I wanted to keep watch, so I glanced in direction of my wanderer to check all was well. He sat safely by a clump of sand. “That’s nice,” I called back.
Soon, there were demands for boogies boards coming from the water. I asked my sister to watch the child on the beach while I made a delivery to the body surfers.
I first knew something was amiss when I heard my composed sister yelp. She quickly made her way towards my son, who was patting and talking to the lump in the sand.
“A seal, very dead,” my sister’s voice curled skyward. “Very, very dead.”
Indeed, it was a partially decomposed seal that looked something like this.
Note that I was too busy scooping up the child to take a photo. This photo is taken by Rajiv Patel and found on Flickr. Our seal had all its teeth intact and his jaws open in a sort of grimace.
My child said a kind good-bye to the seal. They seemed to have developed bond. Free from worries about corpses and decay, I like to think that he saw something different than I did. More like:
This is the opening illustration from a book by Rachel Carson called The Sea Around Us (Oxford University Press, 1951). Though scientifically out of date, it is beautifully written and captures both the knowledge of the time and the imagination of what might be.
It’s almost like reading science fiction, a story about the past that explores an unknown world.
This is one of my favourite excerpts about the formation of the moon:
The next time you stand on a beach at night, watching the moon’s bright path across the water, and conscious of the moon-drawn tides, remember that the moon itself may have been born of a great tidal wave of earthly substance…
There were tides in the new earth, long before there was an ocean. In response to the pull of the sun the molten liquids of the earth’s whole surface rose in tides that rolled unhindered aroudn the globe and only gradually slackened and diminshed as the earthly shell cooled, congealed, and hardened…
After 500 years of such monstrous, steadily increasing tides, those on the side toward the sun became too high for stability, and a great wave was torn away and hurled into space…This is what we call the moon.
If you want to read more, The New Yorker archives contain a profile of The Sea: Wind, Sun, and Moon written by Carson in 1951.
Now that the leaves are turning, that’s how I like to think of that day.
I stand on the beach and watch as a sandbar is pulled from the sea. The water is pushed by the moon, which was torn from the earth and hurled into the sky. Behind me, a baby dragon bares its teeth and starts crawling towards the water.