The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place.  Throughout the long history of Earth it has been an area of unrest, changing with the swing of the tides, belonging now to the land, now to the sea.  Only the most hardy and adaptable can survive in a space so mutable, yet the area between the tide lines is teaming with plants and animals.  In this difficult world, life demonstrates its enormous toughness and vitality by occupying almost every conceivable niche - it carpets the intertidal rocks; or half hidden, it descends into fissures and crevices, hides under boulders, or lurks in the wet gloom of sea caves.      


Every time I find myself in this marginal world, I gain some new awareness of its beauty anddeeper meanings - sensing that intricate fabric of life by which one creature is linked to one another and its surroundings.


This awareness of a world apart most recently came to me during the golden hour on a beach on the coast of Georgia. I had come down at sunset and walked far out over the wet and gleaming sand. The ground was strewn with the shells of exquisitely colored mollusks, the rose telling, looking like scattered petals of pink roses.  I thought.  At one time, their ancestors had been sea dwellers, bound to the salt waters by every tie of their life processes. Little by little, over thousands of years snails have adjusted themselves to life both inside and outside of the water. 


The sequence and meaning of time and life was quietly summarized to me in the existence of hundreds of small snails - the spectacle of life in all its varied manifestations as it has appeared, evolved, and sometimes dies out. Underlying the beauty of the spectacle there is meaning and significance. It is the elusiveness of that meaning that haunts us, that sends us again and again into the natural world where the key is hidden. It sends us back to the edge of the sea.  

photographs by @roughhgem and I

lauren engelComment