Yesterday our family was getting anxious about our plans to go to Germany for the holidays. Mind you, one of the reasons for taking this holiday trip abroad was to avoid the usual holiday tensions: the decorating, cleaning the house, getting the right gifts, making plans and so on. But the joke is on us. Instead, we are dealing with endless details like booking flights and getting the right seats (two of us have special circumstances), renting a car for part of our trip, contacting and recontacting the friends and relatives we’ll be visiting, trying to coordinate everyone’s needs and parameters; and getting appropriate gifts that won’t weigh us down.
It was a beautiful Saturday, so my daughter suggested that she and I go for a walk, one of our favorite things to do. We drove toward the beach about two miles away to walk on the “causeway,” a stretch of land with a straight path along the Long Island Sound on one side and on the other side of the road a beautiful wetlands area fed by the Sound. The walk itself is about a mile and a half roundtrip and usually offers some form of nature to enjoy whatever the season.
That day was remarkably quiet. For a place that can be quite windy, there was barely a breeze. It was 3 o’clock; the sun was already beginning to set and the colors were beautiful fall colors, though somewhat muted by the time of day. We both remarked on the lack of bird activity. In Spring and Fall we are often rewarded by the activities of the osprey who build their nests on very tall poles, and care for their single (most often) offspring diligently through the early fall. It’s an absolute joy to watch the parents soar overhead as they hunt for fish to feed their baby; hence, their common name fishhawk.
The winter ducks hadn’t yet arrived so we couldn’t engage in one of our other favorite pastimes of spotting them riding the crests of the waves in small flocks, diving for food and making their unique calls to each other. No osprey; no breeze; no winter ducks. Just a remarkably golden sunset streaking the surface of the waters of the Sound.
Meanwhile, we had wandered onto the beach. We usually stay on the path for the duration of our walk, but neither of us was in a hurry to get home and face more stressful travel planning. Within minutes I noticed a heap of very white sun- bleached bones lying askew at the high tide line. I called my daughter over to see; she is an amateur physical anthropolist and loves nothing more than an abandoned skull or skeleon or animal shell that she will make great efforts to identify.She was very pleased with my discovery; it turned out to be a bird synsacrum (pelvis and sacrum) and sternum.
Not long after, I found another much smaller bone artifact and again she identified it. It turned out to be part of the skull of a sea robin, also a rare find. This was turning out to be quite an adventure. For the next half hour we combed the beach gathering all kinds of local shells: oyster, mussel, channel whelk, clam and numerous others. She had discovered a couple of small pieces of sea sponge and was delighted since she had never encountered them on the local beaches. By the end of our hour of beachcombing we had quite a treasure trove of found objects and had forgotten all about the anxieties that had driven us out of the house.
We drove home refreshed and very proud of ourselves. We will carefully pack our treasures in tissue and place them in a special box to bring to one of our landlocked relatives in Weimar, Central Germany. She is also a nature lover, her particular passion being fossils and stones. Oddly enough, this is the “gift” I am most excited about bringing to Germany. These are real treasures that are reminders of our life here by the sea, and soon they will become the treasures that will remind her of us, so far away.