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.
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.