Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tidal pool memoriam

Wednesday was a good day...once I got through my meltdown over the turtle walk being full. Don't ask; I'm hoping that memory melts away. Let's just say, sometimes while trying to keep your father, your son, and your husband all happy at the same time, your own happiness gets sacrificed. (But I'm preaching to the choir, I'm sure!)

Around mid-afternoon, I hiked down to our family's little tidal pool spot, near Blackwoods Campground and across from Otter Point, with my brother and my dad. It's a place that my family has been visiting since my mother and her brothers were children, and although we have many happy memories there, we also have some sad ones, too. This is the place we scattered my mother's ashes 11 years ago, so it's a bittersweet sojourn that we make every time we're here in Acadia. We don't have a headstone to visit, which is the way my mom wanted it to be, so this is the next best thing, I suppose. Honestly, my brother and I didn't really want to go down yesterday -- we're both of the "let the past be in the past" mindset -- but it means a lot to my father and we didn't want him to climb down those rocks alone, so we went. And I'm glad we did.

The climb down is more treacherous than I remember, perhaps because my legs are longer, my knees are weaker, and my balance is wobblier, but Mother Nature is also trying to reclaim this little patch of beauty. Rightfully so. I'm happy to let her have it back, not because I don't love it, but because I remember how fiercely my mother loved this spot. I don't want anyone else to know it the way we do.

When we were kids we camped here in Blackwoods, and would go down to the tidal pool and spend hours scrambling barefoot on the rocks, playing with plastic boats in the tidal pool, watching the lobster boats pull in their traps. We ate peanut butter sandwiches and lounged in the sun. It was secluded and secret and just risky enough to fulfill our need for adventure. And the tidal pool rests about five feet from the North Atlantic, so when it often felt like we were about an arm's length from God.

I always took a book to read and my notebook to write (I recall a few really bad poems about seagulls); my brother would climb and explore and wander far from us, humming all the while so my mom always knew where he was; my sister would collect periwinkles and hunt for starfish. We were always barefoot and sunburned, and I have a distinct memory of peeing behind a rock ledge -- communing with nature, as my dad called it. This was the Mello Tidal Pool, claimed and staked and forever. One time when we were down there, another couple ambled out of the woods and started to make their way down the rocks, and my mother said in a voice just loud enough to be clear, "I hope they don't think they're coming down to our spot." They didn't stay.

So now the path is mostly covered in underbrush (poison ivy!) and trees, and even the poplar that we marked 11 years ago to show us the spot to head down the cliff has been taken over by pines. When we got down there to the top of the ledge, after scraping our way through the brambles, I told my dad that this is probably the last time I'll go there, and he said in his typical melancholy way, "yeah, maybe it's time to let go." But I don't think it's letting go. We can cling to those good memories forever; why keep going down there to remember, when it's so loaded with both happy and sad?

Regardless, while we sat and watched the lobster buoys bob on the surf yesterday, the lone kayaker paddle around in the cove, and the gulls circle the rocky shoreline, I heard a faint echo of children's laughter. It's a good spot, our tidal pool, and maybe someday I'll bring Sweet Boy here, too. But if we can no longer traverse the path, that's ok, too. I can tell him about it as we climb over rocks to find a new family spot.

The sun finally came out just before we headed back up the rocks, and I said hello and goodbye.

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