Growing up, traveling vacations weren’t often part of the program. Unlike other families who summered on Cape Cod or up in Maine, we spent time off from school enjoying the attributes of our hometown. Once in a while though, we did get a trip away, say, a day on the Cape or the North Shore of Massachusetts.
During those outings we knew we were getting close because when you get near the sea, the sky changes. The air becomes whitewashed as if scrubbed by a clean sponge and develops a subtle blue. Everything ahead seems open and infinite, the bright air filmed with high mists. We’d barrel along the highway and as soon as we noticed wind-stunted pines by the side of the road along with the change in the light, anticipation soared. Stepping out we’d drink in the aroma of salt mixed with Rosa Rugosa, a robust sea rose that paints the air heavy with a tropical spice. Always, the same bird song emanated from the marshes or tall sea grass. A life time later, I can close my eyes, smell that scent, hear that sound and know with absolute certainty I am near the sea.
I’ve lived close to the shore my entire married life now—in the middle of that expansive sky. Unless I’m coming back home from away, I no longer have the perspective to see it. Rugosas populate the seaside landscapes around us though, and once June arrives and the first blossoms burst forth, I stick my nose into bushes knowing one breath will permeate my veins and conjure up the delight I first experienced during those precious trips away.
The bird call is another story. I hear it often and for years the up and down mix of trilling and chirping has transported me back to childhood holidays. Long ago, I set out to find out what kind of bird produced the sound I love, sure it was something exotic. Over the years, I Googled bird websites and listened to their calls, Wrens, Orioles, Bobolinks, Tanagers, Terns, Cardinals. I never heard anything close, until this week. At work, every week we arrange speakers to talk to the seniors and this past Wednesday, two wild bird professionals gave a slideshow. At the end, I spoke to one of the presenters. “I don't even know what it looks like, but there’s this bird I remember hearing all the time on Cape Cod. I hear it here too. I have no idea what it is but I’d love to find out.” I didn't have to say anything else.
Apparently in all my years of investigating, I never considered the sound that evokes such strong emotion in me could be something as ordinary as a Song Sparrow. For the last few days, I’ve been playing this over and over. Now if only there were a way to capture sky and smell.
Happy Weekend All!