O, New England (a modern love song) by Chloe Ellison
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, MA.
There is a certain coming and going; a certain impatience, a noticing that is always marked by arrival and rarely by departure. Today, as I write, buzzing herds of honeybees graze in meadows of violet aster and sweet goldenrod. Kaleidoscopes of painted ladies and monarchs drift down the hillside bouquets, kissing each blossom in the saturated evening light. Blackberry brambles gather in a thicket, and the foxes unravel their loose ends. In the spring, the redwing blackbirds come, their songs tumbling out like streams after melted snow. The new and stiff scent of pitch pine cascades down the dunes, plummeting onto windswept beaches. The high tide is leveled with Irish moss and rockweed, caramel brown and fizzed up like spilt cola, shaken by winter upheaval, bubbling over onto the sand.
Summer arrives with a heady dusk of citronella and blueberry pie and the way the earth smells after a sudden thunderstorm, warm ozone, overflowing. The air is so humid that you can swim in it. Fireflies flicker in the beachgrass; Lobster are born in the warm shallows of a gentle harbor. In the tight fist of winter, offshore storms summon roaring leviathans to attack a lonely lighthouse in a war of attrition. They strike in a Great White barrage, again, and again, and again; our brazen grey Atlantic offers us witness to the authority of water. Some say that, from the cosmic wilds, a celestial water bearer pours waves from aquarian constellations.
In the autumn, when the sun is just starting its descent from heaven to horizon, the water turns crisp and sharp, in kinship with the leaves. The surface glitters with a vivacious sparkle, but the cold, piercing azure splinters the eye. A shade of sea that materializes like windchill through the body. The sunlight falls, shattering onto the ultramarine seascape, not a cloud in the sky to diffuse the situation. We call those shards “gods' crystals”.
All seasons are welcome here, and time does not stand still; we do not ask it to.
Here is the playground; And a gift, from the players? A game, maybe, or a dance; a song. We slip into our seal skins and slicker down the beach, rolling on our bellies and sploosh ourselves into the whitewash. Much whooping and yawping and wriggling. The waves splash onto us and we splash into them, spitting water at each other. Mushy, peaky, mountain ranges and rolling plains, lush in the wind, cobalt and grey and hues of jade, we go out and take up the salt in our hair, soaking up this sacred marinade. Buoyant laughter, sailing down the line, discovering that we are alive. Handfuls of gods' crystals. We stomp on the sand flats, perturbing the clams with our raucous rumpus; on clear days, we dive down below to pop the bubblewrap and bladderwrack. Skies of blue, and seas of green; every one of us has all we need.
At night, when the moon is full and round, the sea becomes her mirror. When full, she pushes and pulls more deeply; the tides draw themselves close to her. The sea is her mirror and it gazes back at her; The moon snails and moon jellies, carried in the midnight currents, peer up at the banner of their namesake through crystalized refraction. Leaves of sugar kelp flow slowly, soaking into the lunar bath. Slippery shoals of tautog pass by in a rhythmic glissade, easy and free.
When the moon is bursting like this, the horseshoe crabs come to lay their eggs. By the light of this silver shadow, they commune and perform their secret ceremonials. For millennia, eons, for a measurement far beyond any number of imaginable lifetimes, these noble fossils, the healers, have returned to our shores and shores like ours, again, and again, and again. They bury their future on the high tide line, and leave the seeds to be sown, unseen. The horseshoe crab has a time for birth, for death, for growth out of a parchment of skin, on which is written their testament to the essential facts of life. As they turn from shore and begin the long journey back to their respective patches of seafloor, the ancient arthropods lower the rudders and hoist the mainsails, harpooning their skewered tails into the sandbars. They confer; they deliberate; they agree: Now comes good sailing.