Thoughts from a porch

From the porch of a seaside house on the Isle of Palms, South Carolina, near the end of the Starry Coast Writers Workshop:

From a porch

The sound of the waves against the shore is constant and changes only slightly with the tide. Unlike the waters north, the waves are smaller, quieter, perhaps appropriate to the South.

Butterflies On either side of the boardwalk that leads from the house to the beach, there are bright yellow-orange flowers at which butterflies, usually at least five to ten at a time, stop and drink before proceeding along their migratory route. The butterflies, dark orange wings lined with black and with black spots, flutter to each, stop, pump their wings slightly as they drink, and then travel on.

Small sandcrabs, the same color as the sand in which they live, wait until the humans pass, and then scutter from their holes, quickly scuttering back if there is any noise or vibration to alarm them. One has fastened onto a smaller black crab and drags it along the sand; the black crab struggles uselessly. Food? A mate? I’m not sure. The predatory crab is the only one that doesn’t move when I shift my stance; it has its prey and is reluctant to let it go, even when danger threatens.

SanderlingFive Sanderlings skitter across the sand just at the point where the water occasionally flows into their path. They completely ignore the humans walking around them in a way that I’m not used to; it’s as if they were pigeons in Washington Square, so bored by the presence of humans that we’re no longer part of their landscape. They only dance a short distance away if our feet get too close. The birds pick at the surface of the sand for food; when the tide comes in, they probe a little deeper in the wet sand. One obviously thinks of himself (assuming it’s a male) as the alpha Sanderling; he occasionally chases the others away from a treat he wants, and they hurry away, looking a bit like actors in a silent film that has been accidentally sped up.

The beach is lined with large houses, big enough for a family, or for a group of friends. Two people alone wouldn’t be enough; they would rattle around like marbles in a can. People wander along the beach, either alone or in pairs or groups; walking their dogs or walking their kids. A few yards into the water, people stand on surfboards and paddle themselves along, only occasionally riding a slightly more enthusiastic wave into the shore.

I love porches. I love sitting on a porch and writing (and occasionally grabbing my binoculars when a Brown Pelican flies by, and no, I haven’t been able to get a good photo and probably never will). I wonder if I would get bored if I could spend the rest of my life like this.

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