Wednesday, July 14, 2010

::Strange Critters & Goodbye to the Sea::


If nothing else, this short stay was refreshing. And entertaining. I had sat on the porch in the twilight and watched a pair of teenage boys glance around furtively before launching themselves onto the bouncy pad and laughing like hyenas. Even I felt drawn to the big yellow thing. But I didn't want to cut in on the fun. Next morning, while Aidan drove off to find us a new tire, I spent a bit of time swimming in the tepid pool bribing Caelah down the water slide with a pack of ::Silly Bandz::. (Sooooo trendy in the States. They even come in a "religious" theme!)

But all things must come to an end. Even kamping with a 'k'. So we made our way to the last stop on our Ocean tour. Along the way we saw a cluster of oil tankers. They made me feel dirty-- like I was swimming in the slick waters of the Gulf. We descended into the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel and I became very aware of the four walls that stood between us and the water. I felt the stirrings of panic when I saw break lights ahead. If the traffic stops I am getting out and running for the daylight. But traffic flowed. Panic subsided.

::Cape Henlopen:: A super busy campground. So busy that we had to book two different sites, just across the road from each other, in order to stay the weekend. The sites lay just above the dune line so the ground was sandy and the trees were spread thinly. While we set up, the kids scampered up the branches of the pines. I watched Elijah get right to the very top and willed myself to let him explore the way my mom allowed me to as a kid. I still remember the fantastic feeling of reaching the highest branch and looking out at the world. (I also remember the day that top branch snapped under me and I plummeted to the ground, the wind ripped from my lungs . . . but I tried put that out of my mind just then.)

We raced for the beach that evening. As usual we were HOT and sticky. The lady next tent over warned that it was due to storm. I know. I know. But just get me to the water! As we pulled up to the beach we saw an exodus. Cars were all pulling out. . . One intrepid family went our way-- a burly dad and his three daughters. The wind really was a force! And the waves changed my mind about actually getting in. I let them hammer my legs and caught some spray, but that's as far as I wanted to go. I watched a poor crab get tossed far up the shore and scuttle indignantly back into the waves. But it wasn't long before we heard cracks of thunder and saw the lightning. Ok, time to go. The burly dad was stubbornly refusing to give up. He was knee-deep in sand, shoveling like nobody's business. But his littlest daughter began to yank his arm and scream about the lightning. He came soon on our heels.

Instead of going straight to camp we drove the van way down the beach to a point where the sky fanned out in front of us. And we watched the lightning in awe. A few other vehicles arrived with the same idea. A crazy dude actually obliviously walked off down the path to the sea. I saw his Father scamper after him a minute later and they soon returned. Elijah was the first to get uncomfortable with the whole idea of sitting here while the storm raged around us so we returned to camp and sat in the van until the rain let up.

I drove into town that evening to look for wi-fi and groceries. Never found a stable wi-fi connection but did stock up on snacks. Now that the storm had washed away the heat we were all building up a real appetite for the first time in a while. Aidan and I set up a game of Quiddler and played by lantern-light in the coolness of the evening.


Without the heat, we ate our very first bacon and egg breakfast. We enjoyed it thoroughly. And then straight to the beach. We decided to try the spot where we had watched the storm. First we headed bay-side down a very long sandy path that made my muscles scream with effort. I had hoped we would find a swimming beach sheltered from the ocean waves. But instead we found waters thick with jellyfish and a beach strewn with storm-tossed crabs. The crabs were wicked looking things. They were larger than a watermelon and all flailing their spider-like legs about. Now, anyone who knows me knows I have no love for spiders or anything like them, but I felt a deep compulsion to rescue these uglies. So I set out down the beach reaching a hand out to grasp the shell of by the head of each unhappy crustacean and heaving it over. This was not just a quick flick. They must have weighed ten pounds each!

::Starfish Ministry::
. . . "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

{Cannonball Jellyfish: No tentacles but do produce a mild sting}

{Horseshoe Crabs}

So I may have wanted the best for these creatures but I didn't particularly want to swim with them, nor their Jelly friends. So we trooped back up the sandy path and down the other side. We found ourselves in the middle of a designated fishing spot. But at this point, I didn't want to walk up any more sand so we stayed. We settled between two men who had already cast their rods. They had them jammed upright into the sand so the lines were well above our heads. I only came up against one when I treid to swim. I looked up and found myself looking at a thin line. Sorry!

We were gifted with two unexpected sights that day. First, a fisherman just down the beach hauled up a Stingray and we all flocked around it for a look. It was as wide around as a garbage-can lid, undulating and waving it's tail back and forth. We watched the man proudly stand next to it as his wife took a picture. But he paid a price for his catch. As he prodded the ray back towards the water, it lashed out it's tail and gashed his wrist. I saw the cut. It was about an inch long and gaping. I watched this very big man try and hide his pain--wincing and sucking on the cut. Imagine a cut like that on a little boy?

And then we saw the dolphins. Ever since Aidan and I had willed dolphins to appear on a pier in Whales during on honeymoon --and then they had! -- I felt I had filled by quota. Dolphin sightings could be someone else's privilege in future. But here they were! It was the kids who had drawn our attention to them, thinking they were sharks, of course. I assured them sharks would not be traveling in groups like that. The dolphins swam back and forth down the beach. "They come every weekend," one of the fishermen volunteered. That makes sense. They are such social creatures, I'm sure they come when the beach is at it's fullest. When Aidan went in for a swim I saw one peel away and come closer. I asked Aidan to stay in and see how close it would come. But it wisely stayed well past the fishing lines.

We spent a bit of time before lunch yanking our tent across the road to our next site. A much bigger one, but without good climbing trees. Relief! It turns out Henlopen was the site of a military base called Fort Miles in the Second World War. We climbed one of the lookout towers and were rewarded with a fantastic view of the Cape. Looking down we could see that campers had made a habit of grouping pine cones into messages and pictures. Later, Caelah and Elijah worked together to create their own pinecone sign: Hello. Welcome!

Our forray to the sea later in the day was an education for me. I was outright skittish about the water, at this point. Too much wafflement for me. (See previous posts for a definition of the colloquial use of the term 'waffle'). But Aidan and I deliberately studied the locals to learn how to relate with the monster waves. They all sat about twelve feet from the shore and looked outwards. When a wave was meh they would bob up over it. But if they took a wave more seriously they would launch themselves into it and come out the other side. Two girls were doing this in a half-hearted way while they carried on an intense conversation! Meanwhile my heart was racing at the thought of putting a toe in! Finally Aidan proved it all worked. He went in and dove through a few waves smiling back at me each time. See? That's when I knew I would have try it myself. My fear was making me angry. Fear is so nonconstructive! I looked for a suitable wave-guide and scooted across the water to her. Between waves I told her; "Hi! I'm a total tourist and the ocean scares me. Can you help me get through these waves?" She laughed and said she would. So we bobbed over the first few and then watched the big one come. "Now would be a good time to dive under," she suggested. So I did. Victory!

Meanwhile the kids were waging a different battle in the sand. They had invaded the carefully constructed sand fortress of an "un-civil engineer"-- as his wife referred to him. I saw him momentarily struggle with annoyance as his sprawling sand creation was a bit trampled by four little kids. But he quickly snapped out of it and said; "If ye built it, they will come." And then he delegated tasks to each kid and they began to work on new walls and moats and other sandy structures.

I watched Aidan-the-hero spot a little girl plotting a determined path straight into the sea after a toy that was being washed away. He scooted behind her, scooped up the toy and handed it to back while standing firmly between her and the waves. Her mother hurried over ; "Thank you so much! I wasn't watching!" Her Dad also came up a little later to thank him again.

We finally said goodbye to the ocean. This was our last day at the beach. As we walked back up the boardwalk I hollered;
"You are terrifying but we love you!"

Thanks to Gabriel's friendly banter we made new friends back at camp. The family next to us soon invited us all over to share their fire. Folabi was a Nigerian man who worked for Amnesty International. His two children, Liam and Nora, had come with him every summer for the last few summers. "My ex-wife was Irish with skin just like you (he waved his hand at me), so I wanted them to have very Irish names. Their African heritage is evident, but their Irish heritage is hidden." Nora was hilarious. She was loud and full of attitude, without any sense of personal space. In other words, I immediately adored her. I told her not to be so hard on her little brother who was causing her no end of grief. I explained to her that my brother Daniel and I drove each other crazy for years. Now we are great friends. She didn't really buy it but time will tell. Folabi talked with us into the night, but waking kids called us away. "God bless you! Goodnight!"