The tide is going out. My wife and I walk along the beach and watch dogs romp and children squeal and clammers clam as far out as we can see. More than a mile of empty sand lies before us, etched with channels, and the descending tide is still running out through them like spring snowmelt flowing down a stream. . . .
Can we go now, Dad, can we go?!
50 Sky july 2006
photo by swerve/alamy
By Roger Toll
photos by Brian Smith (path, clammer and catboats) and Russ Schleipman (rockers, clambake and fishtails)
We lived our days in nature and in tune with the tides.
52 Sky july 2006 july 2006
just one thing
he tide is going out. My wife and I walk along the beach and watch dogs romp and children squeal and clammers clam as far out as we can see. More than a mile of empty sand lies before us, etched with channels, and the descending tide is still running out through them like spring snowmelt flowing down a stream. Little has changed since I first spent summers as a child on the beach in Brewster, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod Bay. The days were magical, sunny and free, and everything felt soft: the dust in the road that squished
by a shark he hadn’t seen. When the tide was high, we’d picnic on the beach and frolic in the water, and that was fun. But low tide was the best, especially on weekends when the house filled with family. We’d walk way out—a mile and a half normally, two miles when a spring tide drew farther out under a full moon. Close to shore, we’d dig for cherrystone and littleneck clams, and also razor clams, which were my favorites because they were hard to catch. On the outer bars, the sand was whiter, but it was scary knowing that the land we were playing on would soon be the bottom of the sea and that maybe when the tide turned it’d come in faster than we could walk, as parents would sometimes warn us. The current in the channels was strong when it started flowing in, and the adults would grab us up and carry us across, while the dogs barked and bit at the onrushing water. Back at the cottage, we’d eat buckets of raw clams as the sun went down, and
between my toes, the soft-hued flowers that clung to the gray-blue cottages, and the opalescent light—oh, that light— of summer at the sea. We lived our days in nature and in tune with the tides. The first thing in the morning, we’d look out to see what the tide was doing. If it was low, Clint the fisherman would be out on the flats in his Model T, wading down to the weirs and emptying them of the night’s catch. They were big fences, 150 feet across, made of nets hung on poles planted in the sand. We could always tell how high the tide was by seeing how much of the poles stuck out above the water. On his way back in, Clint would stop on the beach below our cottage, toot his horn and hand us some mackerel to fry up for breakfast. Clint was an old Cape Codder who’d been doing what he’d been doing for a very long time. He didn’t have most of his teeth—and he didn’t like wearing his false ones—but he could still tell good stories, like the time he’d waded into the weirs and got a chunk bitten out of his thigh
sometimes we’d sneak a swallow of beer from an adult’s glass. It was always festive and fun. The tide has turned while my wife and I have been talking about those memorable days. We are far out on the flats and, like the children in that cottage long ago, we have to wade the channels to get back to the beach. Just as before, romping dogs and laughing children head back with us. How rare, I think, that in this world of constant change, here at least nature seems the same. The tides come and go, clams burrow in the sand and the sunlight glitters off the channels, just as they always did. We embrace the moment, and each other, then decide to get some clams for lunch. Raw, of course. Though California-born, Sky contributing editor Roger Toll spent occasional summers at Cape Cod with an Eastern branch of his family.
photos by Warren Marr/Panoramic Images and (OPPOSITE PAGE, TOP) brian Smith
How rare, I think, that in this world of constant change, here at least nature seems the same.
xx Sky month 2006
Published on May 1, 2009