It isn’t the oceans which cut us off from the world — it’s the American way of looking at things.
~ Henry Miller
Life is life’s greatest gift. Guard the life of another creature as you would your own because it is your own. On life’s scale of values, the smallest is no less precious to the creature who owns it than the largest.
~Lloyd Biggle Jr.
The weather has been been beautifully autumnal here for the past week or so. Lots of sunshine, vivid blue skies, cool temperatures, and dry air. Yesterday was so pretty that M and I decided to make it a beach day. I would like to have gone for a hike in the woods, especially since the fall foliage here is pretty much at its peak, but there is hunting allowed on Sundays, or some Sundays (I’m not sure if it’s every Sunday or not), and most of the good places to hike and leaf-peep are open to hunting. Even certain areas of Assateague Island National Seashore are open to hunting (but NO Sunday hunting is allowed during any season). In case you’re wondering what people are hunting on Assateague Island, deer (white-tailed and sika) and waterfowl, but (I think) only on the Maryland end of the island. Chincoteague, the Virginia end, is a wildlife refuge.
It has become a tradition of sorts for me to present the first Woolly Bear that I see each season here on Ye Olde Blogge (and on my former Olde Blogge, Life in the Bogs). Woolly Bears are used in weather folklore to predict what sort of winter is ahead. I’ve found them to be accurate about 50% of the time. They say that the wider the rust colored segment, the milder the winter. The Woolly Bears I’ve seen this year have little to no black bands so, according to folklore, we’re going to have a very mild winter. I’m not terribly surprised by that. Winters here are generally mild, at least compared to the winters we experienced in Northeast Ohio when we lived there.
As you might recall, we have an OSV/ORV (Over Sand Vehicle/Off-Road Vehicle) pass. We took the pick-up truck, and drove out (over the sand) to Toms Cove Hook. You have to pay attention to the tide when you drive out there because parts of the beach are impassable at high tide. Unless you’re traveling by boat, of course, which we were not. Toms Cove Hook is an embayment located on the southern end of Assateague Island within the wildlife refuge. It would be a great place to watch a rocket launch since you can clearly see NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility from there. However, they usually close it off during rocket launches for safety reasons (it’s too close). The OSV/ORV area is also closed during Piping Plover breeding season. Piping Plovers are small shorebirds that have been threatened with extinction due to loss of habitat. Interestingly (to me), I first learned of Piping Plovers when M and I took our trip to the Canadian Maritimes in June of 2012.
Assateague Island is the only nesting site in Maryland, and it is one of the densest breeding areas on the East Coast of the U.S. Their breeding season begins about mid-April and lasts until they migrate south in August or September. The Toms Cove Hook in Virginia is a popular breeding area for them, too. All this is my way of saying that even though an OSV/ORV pass is good for a year, you are not allowed out that way for several months throughout the year which is why we usually wait until the cooler and cold weather seasons to take a drive out on the beach. That is not a complaint. I am thankful that they close off the OSV areas for the birds. They are easily disturbed by humans, causing them to leave the nesting area, and sometimes the chicks will fall into the deep tracks left by vehicles and they’re too small to get out.
After making our way by truck to Toms Cove Hook, we parked on the beach and took an almost 3-mile hike on the beach and around the dunes. Parts of the area are flooded during high tide, creating little pools. During low tide, the pools become mud flats. There were plenty of animal tracks in the mud flats and one of the more interesting things we saw were what looked like three-toed deer tracks. It’s possible it was a mutation or birth defect, but I’ve also read that it could be from an injury causing the deer to overstep its front tracks.
There were plenty of birds to be seen on the shoreline and gathered around the pools that don’t drain when the tide goes out. I saw all sorts of gulls (I have a hard time identifying some of the different types of gulls so I tend to lump them all together — my apologies to the gulls), some cormorants, and a variety of sandpipers. Some of the flora was not quite in its winter guise yet.
I was surprised to see there was still some goldenrod blooming in the dune areas. Our goldenrod finished up sometime in September or early October, I think. Chincoteague is less than an hour’s drive south of us. I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of difference in the foliage between here and there. Surprisingly, there is. Perhaps that’s due to the water, which retains its heat longer than the sand or the land.
In other news… We’ve had our first lecture and discussion meeting for the Yoga Darsana (teacher training) course I’m taking. There is so much to learn! I realized pretty quickly that I am not going to live long enough to learn all that I want to learn. That’s true of anything, I suppose. It puts into perspective just how short a lifetime is. On the other hand, it’s time enough. The trick is not to waste it.
Because there is so much, it felt somewhat overwhelming at first. It was a little like jumping into deep water and forgetting that I know how to swim. This is not totally new to me, even if it feels new. I keep bringing myself back back to some of the other teachings, things I learned with my teacher, Karin, during some of her shorter classes (The Art of Self Care, especially): mind the basics (good food, rest, connection with others), take some leisure time (it shouldn’t be all yoga, all the time, or all learning, all the time), and identify activities that help fill you up and leave you feeling refreshed, things that touch your heart. For me, that includes a walk in the woods, around the meadows, on the beach, or just being outside and allowing the beauty of nature to rejuvenate me.
There is this, too:
Be soft in your practice, think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in its course. It will go on its way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you there.
It’s a wonderful reminder not to be too hard or to allow the overwhelm to take over.
Going back to Chincoteague, our walk took us through the dunes, around some of the pools that remain even during low tide, and out along the wrack line where we saw so many different things washed up by the water. Shells, huge jellyfish, bones, feathers, driftwood, human detritus (we picked up three pairs of goggles along with some other plastic), rocks, and large pieces of what might have been a house, perhaps this house that has been surrounded by water for the past seven years (due to erosion from storms). There were strong winds on Halloween night and they think that’s what caused it to finally float away. I thought I read somewhere that it had been seen near Wallops Island.
On one area of the beach we found a horseshoe crab shell graveyard. Horseshoe crabs, as they grow, molt. They shed their exoskeletons and form new, bigger ones. They molt several times during their first year. After three or four years, they molt annually. Horseshoe crab numbers in this area are down for several reasons. This has an effect on birds, as well. Red Knots who migrate to the area (Delaware, in particular) from Tierra del Fuego, rely on horseshoe crab eggs to help them refuel for the rest of their migration to their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic. There is a short article about it here.
I reckon that’s about it from me and from the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge for now. I did not take the big camera with me on our walk. These are all phone photographs. I did take the big camera out later to photograph some egrets, hangers-on who I was surprised to see still here. Usually they’ve moved to warmer climes by now. Perhaps they were on their way elsewhere and stopped off for a rest and a meal.
Thank you for visiting and joining me on another meander. Let’s meet out at the Point for sunset this evening. Mother Nature and Sister Sky have been showing off with a variety of beautiful colors lately. Sunset is scheduled for 4:55 PM. I’ll be there early, as usual, to just to take a little walk along the beach, maybe pick up some trash. It is relatively warm today (60’s F) but windy. You’ll need a jacket or a sweatshirt.
Be good, be kind, be love. ♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,176) You. Your visits, your comments, your participation in Walktober. Thank you. 1,177) Sunlight on the ocean. 1,178) Wide expanses of beach to explore. 1,179) Great teachers, and learning experiences. 1,180) All of the beauty that surrounds us and the hope that we will all learn to appreciate the gift we’ve been given (the planet itself).