A feathered friend and thoughts about eternity
It is good to be back here again. I turn the car off the asphalt, the gravel crunching under the tires as I head for the shore. The single lane wooden bridge rattles as I cross the brook and nose into the deepening sand where the small dunes point toward the beach. I get out of the car, breathe in the salt air and look around. This is the spot where the brown brook passes into the shade under the bridge, then emerges and turns abruptly away from the beach and the salt water beyond. The brook is heading back inland.
It is as if, having spent an entire lifetime tumbling from its source toward its end at the sea, the fast moving current is startled that it has finally arrived. At the last minute the brook realizes it isn’t ready yet. It wants more time before committing to the lifechanging transition as its sweet water becomes entirely engulfed by the vastness of salt, stretching to the horizon on the far side of the beach.
Turning its back temporarily on the sea, the brook widens and slows. Its flow is now split into several pathways, lazily surrounding small islets and carving out beach-grass covered peninsulas. The shoreline tugs at the everslowing water, urging it to take its time and enjoy the journey. The current’s separate pathways rejoin one another again as the brook transforms itself, smoothing its riffled surface to a mirror finish, the barachois pond it has now become, reflecting the cloudstreaked blue overhead.
Walking along the sand I am offered small glimpses of the pond through the dense thickets of beach-grass. The water is only inches deep here. Heated and lit by the sun, the sandy bottom is the palest of pale browns, darker shadows cast by small fish flitting here and there across it, the fish themselves almost translucent in the bright light. It is as peaceful and pastoral a setting as one might find miles inland.
With my back to the sea the only hint that the ocean is mere footsteps away is the scent of seaweed and the whispered hiss of waves breaking on the sand. I know without turning around that the sea is there because I have been here many times before. I also know that only a few paces downstream the clear surface of the barachois pond will become a brook once again, will begin to ripple, become deeper, darker and faster until it hurls itself into the narrow passage across the beach and into the limitless ocean.
I may have been here many times before, but so has the brook. Many many more times than me. The brook has paused here to become a barachois pond, oh so many times, before rejoining the sea whence it came. It has done so forever, beneath the clouds which have lifted it up, transported it inland, and rained it down onto the hillsides that return it to the salt water once again. Many times. Continuously. Eternally.
My thoughts of eternity are interrupted by a familiar sound. It is the rapid cheeping of a spotted sandpiper. A message of alarm. It is coming from the long grass where the brook is tumbling across the beach into the sea.
I turn toward the sound and up pops a tiny gray and brown bird, frantically beating its wings in a blur of repeated downstrokes. It is trying to divert my attention from the spot where it first appeared.
This can mean one of two things. The cheeping bird may be trying to guide me away from either four eggs in a nest, or four flightless newborn sandpipers scurrying in the grass. If there are youngsters here, the adult bird will change its call and begin to utter instructions to its young, explaining to them how best to avoid the intruding human. The little birds normally reply that they understand. I don’t hear any of these messages though, and the bird continues to fly around me cheeping frantically. As I slowly retreat, picking my way among the clumps of grass, I scan the ground carefully for eggs. I see none, and eventually the bird vanishes into the grass and the cheeping stops.
It is somehow fitting that hidden in the precise spot where fresh water is preparing to become salt, sandpiper eggs are about to transform themselves into tiny birds. These young sandpipers will grow to maturity this summer, fly to South America in the autumn, returning next spring to Newfoundland to make their nests and hatch their young anew. It is a cycle as complete and ongoing as the rainfall that feeds the brooks that empty into the ocean.
What a privilege it is to live in this wonderful place, where every day it is possible to bear witness to the renewal of eternity.
— Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Salvage, Bonavista Bay. He can be reached by email at the following: email@example.com 30