Monthly Archives: August 2010

between oceans and rivers

tidal flats wedged between the ocean and the intercoastal waterway

the marsh, wedged between the ocean and the inter-coastal waterway

marsh wood blog

weathered salt (red) cedar trunk with perennial glasswort

While at the beach in North Carolina, I like to turn my back on the long row of beach houses and follow the winding game trails out into the marsh.  It is a type of selective experience not unlike the viewing of a painting– a decision to forget about what is behind you, and to be absorbed into that which fills your cone of vision.  The differences between distant observation and actual immersion are striking.  Everything is crisp and bristly in the marsh.  What seemed solid now compresses, and what seemed still now moves.  With each crunching step I play the role of mythic monster as thousands of fiddler crabs flee before me, comical in their bumping and stumbling.  The marsh is a subtle topography of low and lower, the subdivisions most noticeable in firmness of footing and shifts in flora.  Glasswort gives way to cord grass, which then inches up into black needle rush.  The plants tolerate varying degrees of immersion during tidal flooding, so small shifts in elevation can result in significant shifts in plant life.  The marsh is well stocked with edible plants, including the glasswort pictured above.  More seductive is the passion fruit, which unfortunately was not yet ripe. I saw passion flowers for the first time while living in Key West, FL.  Initially I mistook it for a fake flower, so strange and wonderful was the bloom.

a passion flower, in all of its ridiculous glory

a passion flower, in all of its ridiculous glory

passion fruit hanging from the vine

passion fruit hanging from the vine

a gulf-fritillary catepillar devouring the leaf of a passion flower vine

a gulf-fritillary catepillar devouring the leaf of a passion flower

Southern Fox Grape

Southern Fox Grape
Pindo Palm fruit

Pindo Palm fruit

Southern Fox (muscadine) grapes lined the marsh invasively, climbing over anything and everything available.  They ripen to a deep purple, but even the green ones can be refreshing in the heat of summer.  The fruit of the Pindo Palm is also quite good, and the tree is often used residentially for landscaping.

all good things…

documenting the lonesome pine, photo by Christine Amick Sarra

documenting the lonesome pine, photo by Christine Amick Sarra

a bottle on the old dump site, under the oaks

a bottle on the old dump site, under the oaks

We just returned from our annual trip to the east coast, where for the past seven years or so Christine and I have been juggling several different projects.  While the sites in North and South Carolina maintain a certain degree of magic for us, we both had the feeling that some of the extended documentation and artworks were drawing to a close.    The task ahead is to try to determine what has been accomplished, and what the best forms/forums might be for presenting the work.

One nice piece of my summer reading has been The Stones of Emptiness, a book of poems by Anthony Thwaite.  The selection below was serendipitously juxtaposed with my time on and overlooking the tidal rivers and mudflats of the Carolinas.

At Pagham Harbour

These are salt acres, the sea’s tithes

Drenched twice a day, worked by the crab and gull.

At low tide mud heaves and breathes

But only in waiting for the levelling pull

Each wave makes as it fills the harbour mouth.

Coarse grasses stand

Stiff before even the strongest wind.

No hedges here, or walls, or any path

Except for the birds’ frail tracks,

The scribbled spoors of crabs, and scattered rocks.

No one can tell the way the paths

Ran once, and who has walked them, over there

To Manhood, maybe, where the water bathes

Its buried church.  The sea smothers the air

And we breathe salt and hear only the sea.

I think about

That ninetheenth-century parson who looked out

And saw a wall of water half-fill his sky,

The sea marking its bounds,

Breaking its barriers, inheriting its lands.