“But water is a question, so many living things in it,
but what is it, itself, living or not? Oh, gleaming
generosity, how can they write you out?”
– Mary Oliver, Some Things, Say the Wise Ones
These past few days I’ve gotten re-acquainted with our old family friend Buzzards Bay. This particular body of water has always been a living force that demands attention. And I’ve paid attention. A steady stream of boats and ships and barges move across the surface. Osprey hover above until the thrilling moment they plunge to the water for a fish. Cormorants work their drama under the surface, swimming about in our world until they suddenly dive underwater in search of fish, then surface in unpredictable places that betray the chase that happened below. There’s always something to pay attention to around the bay, so full of life and activity in the warmer months, but especially I pay attention to the Bay itself.
The tides sweep in and out, marked by ripples in the channel and the pull of boats on moorings. Big beach, tiny beach, big beach, tiny beach over and over again in a timeless gravity dance with the moon. The tide is a big topic around these parts, whether people go to the beach or not. I greatly prefer the ease of a high tide, but plunge in either way. It only changes how far I walk.
Above all, the Bay is a mother, birthing and hosting millions of lives every year in her nutrient-rich waters. Like a mother she tolerates a lot from the kids playing games around her. The Bay is a chameleon: changing colors with the sky. A palette of blue, green, silver, gold, orange and dark gray flecked in white announce the mood of this old girl, and you’d best pay attention. She has no patience for those who don’t respect her moods. I’ve learned to give her respect, and I’m grateful for her generosity in the times when I didn’t pay enough respect. It will not happen again.
I clearly remember the first time I swam in Buzzards Bay, tasting the saltiness of the water, and the relative warmth compared to the water north of the Cape. I was in awe then, and still am in many ways. I’ve raised my own children to love the Bay and hope they’ll pay it forward for future generations. I think she’ll be in good hands.