Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Rocky Harbor on a Shifting Shore

Here's a few bonus photos to share with you from yesterday. It was such a lovely day that it seemed a shame to head right home after work, so I decided to kick around the Rock Harbor area for a little while.

Now, I know that I often share photos of the bay from Rock Harbor, clouds, sunsets, beach people and boats, but I've never really shared much context.

I'm most often standing out on the breakwater where that guy is in this picture (for a change, I was shooting from the other side).

While many of you certainly have the capacity to go "Oooh, pretty" without worrying yourselves too much, it's possible that one or two of you have sat back and thought, "Where the heck is this Rock Harbor Greg's always talking about?"

And so I put a dot on this satellite photo of Cape Cod to give you some sense of just what place I'm talking about. A red dot, which you can see more clearly if you enlarge the image.

I just love the way they sketch in the outlines of the Cape, as though our sandy edges were not shifting every time the tide turns or the wind blows.

Of course, it then occurs to me that this does nothing to answer the question, "Where the heck is Cape Cod, anyway?" and so for those of you who're troubled by that one, I've taken this larger satellite photo of the northeast USA and added a cute little arrow and a dot each for the approximate locations of New York City and Boston for orientation. This shot gets bigger, too.

So that's us, sticking fifty miles or so out to sea.

(And it further occurs to me that the truly geographically challenged amongst you can now go load up your Google Earth accounts if you're still a little lost.)

Anyway, the harbor, with its marina and picturesque break waters on Cape Cod Bay, is located just north of inside "elbow" of the Cape, at the mouth of Rock Harbor Creek. The creek weaves its way from there through the salt marsh behind the harbor nearly to Route 6 and the ocean beyond.

Thanks to the Orleans Historical Society, we know that it used to look like this and also like this.

I've been stopping by Rock Harbor for years now, since it was long on my regular commute to and from work and the parking lot at the boat launch offers easy access to nice views. Since last fall, it's been slightly out of the way, but old habits die hard and its such a beautiful spot to visit. When I visited this time, I went the long way around, down Governor Prence road to the marina side, where there's a second boat launch ramp.

That road, like so many out here, bisects the salt marsh behind the marina, but it seems well-culverted to keep the life of the marsh going anyway.

Did you know that salt marshes rival rainforests as one of the planets most biologically productive habitats?

I've always been fascinated with the way salt marshes absorb the debris of the oceans, all the decaying plant and fish life to be used to bring new life in the way of a few plants who begin to grab hold, and cause new land to be formed, as plant roots begin to fight the erosions of the tide.

No matter how careful we are, there are always casualties in the places where the natural world and the human world (who ever thought to seperate them in the first place?), and I found these odd remains on the edge of the road when I stopped for my photos.

I'm not an experienced birder, or perhaps I'd be able to recognize the species here. I get the impression that it could've been some youngster who was maybe run over, since there's a frozen aspect here that seems like a moment from time, when it made an ill-timed effort to dash across the road. Of course, it can't be more than an impression, since all that remains here is essentially a cave painting done in feather and bone.

Check out the far side of this marsh, where the land has long ago been reclaimed from sand, and the marsh's work has allowed a transition to be made, and a small bit of forest is born.

On one side of the Cape, the sand washes away with each new tide. On the other side, new land is formed. In between there's life and death. And it's going on all the time. I often think that this is what I love about Cape Cod. No matter how long I've been here, there's always this sense of change in progress. Even the ever-changing motels and gift shops and other businesses sort of underscore the theme.

I like it. I mean, nothing ever really stays the same, anyway. That's just an illusion we create when we're not paying attention to the world around us. At least here, you get the reminders that it's always happening. The birds and the whales come and go with the seasons, and so do the people. A shifting sandbar, channels that need dredging, old homes washed away in ocean storms, new ones built at the fringes of the marsh. The change just goes on and on.

There's something comforting about that, somehow.


Birdie said...

What gorgeous photos! Every scale imaginable. For those who want to see even further where you are located, go here. :D

tornwordo said...

It looks so rural. I guess building big cities isn't wise on constantly shifting land.