Monday, April 18, 2016

This Weekend We // Bishops Head

On Friday, I set off with the van packed with a stroller, cooler, sleeping bags, and a change of clothes for each of us. On our way to the environmental education center where my friend Claire lives and teaches, we stopped at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Years ago, in an environmental literature class that I was in with the very friend we were headed to visit, the professor arranged a non-mandatory field trip to Blackwater on a Saturday. Non-mandatory meant that it was not worth fighting through a hangover for an early rise and a long car trip. But the sense of having missed out on something remained these past dozen years, and I was glad to finally go and see the bald eagles, blue herons and snowy egrets for myself. And I was even more grateful to have children who appreciate such outings. Armed with the checklist / scavenger hunt we picked up at the welcome center, they stayed occupied for nearly three hours. We saw huge parties of turtles sunning themselves. Spotted two diamond back snakes. Spied muskrat guys. Walked through the woods. Ate our weight in clementines. The sun was out, and the estuary teemed with life, even if it was in the sleepy, lazy way of swamp creatures.

Claire warned us twice about gas in emails. "Make sure you have at least a half tank when you are passing through Cambridge on the way down-- that is where our closest gas station is and it's about 45 min-1 hour away." I didn't quite believe her. But as we drove down that flat, two lane road for miles on end, I saw with my own eyes that she wasn't exaggerating in the least. And when my dashboard suddenly lit up with indicator lights, I also discovered the truth in another one of her warnings: there are miles and miles on deadman's land when it comes to cell phone reception. Not once but twice, I pulled over to do the only things I know how to do on a car: check oil and tire pressure.  Why do I always think I am brave enough to take these trips with four kids by myself? And why can't I be the sort of person who does things like regular car maintenance?

As we drove, we saw the old farmhouses sinking into the marsh, returning to a changed land. Claire told me that the Eastern Shore is on the bottom of a tectonic plate and as the glaciers melt, it is slowly being wallowed by the Chesapeake. A hundred years ago, these quagmires were farms. Fields of tomatoes. Harriet Tubman was born here. Now it is swamp. Large stretches of invasive phragmite turn to gold as the sunsets.

The kids spent the afternoon watching MTV, a joke that they laughed at over and over again and were quick to share with each new arrival. (See the picture below to understand.) Claire taught them the best way to bait crab pots, which involved snapping spot with their bare hands, a task Gus nervously agreed to, but which Sena refused. She took them to look through tide pools. Tonged oysters with them. Netted for minnows.

We watched the sun set from the screen porch, enjoying a vista that looked more like something from another continent than any views I've seen along the bay from my opposite shore. Claire's friend Rosie showed up with amazing loaves of homemade sour dough. Gus manned the grill. Sena prepared roasted cauliflower. As more people arrived, the mood changed from educational to festive, and was was struck with moments of overwhelming gratitude.

The next day brought pots of coffee and frittatas and a few more hours on the dock before heading home in time for me to work.

I probably shouldn't be so fast to say yes to somewhat labor intensive invitations when Tom can't join me. It requires a lot of the friends who invite me along. They help me cut up dinners and keep kids from falling down stairs or in to bodies of water. My laize faire approach to parenting is likely exasperating to those unaccustomed to my methods.   But I hate missing out, and I'm quite certain, than I will do almost anything in my power to not miss out on invitations to Claire's bit of swampy magic.

*The last six photographs are by my friend Maggie. Thanks, Mags. It's nice to be in the pictures sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! I went there when I worked at an Audubon Center in Easton; we went on a bike ride and I still remember how many birds we spotted.