tree trunk in the maritime forest

tree trunk in the maritime forest

It’s Monday back in the real world.  I’m attempting to pretend I’m all here, but I still have one foot on an island.  Yesterday’s sunrise, which seems a continent away and a month behind me, was a battle between blackened hovering clouds and peach colored light thrown at the edges of billowing cloud formations.  It came and went, shifting back and forth.  I sat in the sand and tried to paint a seized moment here and an arrested cloud there.  Sand blew low and hard, needle-pricking me.  It completely filled my paintbox and scattered itself on my page.  My brush, new and sharp-pointed- became frayed and full of sand particles.  My hair blew so hard across my face I couldn’t see.  The waves tossed spray high above the horizon line.  A heron flew overhead.  Then a peregrin falcon.  It was altogether a spectacular and peculiar sunrise.

The night before, at dusk, we had traveled to a roosting site, hidden away from the public, to watch perhaps one hundred or more egrets and ibises rocking up and down on tree limbs suspended over a perfect mirror of a pond.  The mosquitoes lit on our faces and arms and drew blood in spite of toxic doses of bug spray we’d bathed in.

Part of that day had been spent in the maritime forest, learning about plant species.  The woods were scattered with deadwood more extreme than any sculpture.  We were irresistibly drawn to touch it and photograph it from every angle.  Yesterday morning we took a walk in the marsh and sat long enough on an ancient hammock, now covered with cabbage palms and live oaks, to observe the behavior of fiddler crabs.  I had time enough to do a lightning fast sketch of the underbrush on the hammock.  I learned new words for the plants  and creatures that fill the marshes– spartina, sea lavender, periwinkle snails.  Mike picked up a glass lizard, the only legless lizard I have ever seen.  Empowered by my previous night’s experience of petting the belly of a California King Snake I attempted to do the same to the glass lizard, who struck at me.  No harm done beyond the embarrassment  of my own reaction–  abject bone-rattling fear, which greatly amused my fellow adventurers.

There was butterfly catching, seining, lots of drawing to record what I saw.  I was swimming in a soup of sensation.  It made me delirious and carried me out of myself and back into union with the earth.  It is with reluctance that I bring myself back to electric lights and cars, billboards and cellphones.  I looked back at my journal from last September’s trip to this island.  In it I said that I’d had the revelation while there that the secret to living this second part of my life was to live it like a poem.  “order it and edit it and take time to live it consciously”.  This year I plan to remind myself everyday that I am in the midst of a poem.


  1. I am just now reading this and it still makes me jealous a month later. The island is just so rich and you captured that so well. Just love the idea of editing life to be something of a poem. I too have found that seeking richness rewards me every day- the people, the sensory experiences- this world has plenty for me, I just don’t have enough time.

  2. I’m so glad you “got it”. I’m never there that I don’t wish I were there with all my boys. I look over in the seat next to me expecting to see a pair of wet squeaky little sand covered legs– it so takes me back in time. Many times I invoked your spirit, even if you were busy elsewhere.

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