Wandering at Wasque

Watching Wasque's metamorphosis

Life has certainly been very busy lately, between work and Christmas, and kids returning from college for their break.  A nice busy, but busy nonetheless.  So it was particularly nice last weekend to just relax and take ourselves and the dogs for a walk out at Wasque, one of our very favorite places.

My very first trip to Wasque was on an unseasonably warm November day, just over twenty five years ago.  It was a really long walk to the beach, on a very long path through the dune grass, and then across lots of sandy beach to get as far out as the water.  It was a beautiful day, and we walked up and down a very long, wide beach.

We returned at least yearly, if not more often, with our growing family, and for quite a while, there seemed to be only small differences in the width of the beach.  It used to be such a long walk to the water, over sand, trying to keep the grass from brushing any of the kids’ legs lest they pick up one of the ticks that hung out on the grasses.  Later, the Trustees put up a boardwalk to make the walk out to the beach easier for everyone, and that certainly sped up our trek, as we would herd ourselves, the kids and a few fishing poles out to the water’s edge.  We would always look for the swans in Swan Pond along the way – they usually were tucked in a small inlet in the pond, southwards towards the point.

While there were certainly small variations in the shape of the beach or the distance between the boardwalk and the beach, it didn’t really intrude on my consciousness.  But when the storms started actually eating away at the boardwalk, I was pretty shocked.  My husband was less surprised, telling tales about being able to fish from directly off the cliff as a kid, the ocean being directly underneath it.  It’s a cycle, he’d say.  The beach comes, the beach goes.

The boardwalk got shorter and shorter, still I still never dreamed Swan Pond would go, yet it did.  With the ocean advancing steadily towards the cliff, it actually held on far longer than I later thought possible.  The pond changed shape a bit, the swans moved, and then seemed to stop living there, before it was finally overtaken by the ocean. 

My perspective on it may not be as long as my husband’s, who has been watching it change since he was a toddler, but even in the twenty five years I’ve been visiting Wasque, I can honestly say that one of the things I now love most about it is that it is never the same twice.  Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you just never know what you’ll see next.  Last weekend’s walk showed how very close the ocean is to reaching the cliff again.  Several of the paths we took just a month ago are roped off, no longer safe.  What will I see on my next walk?  It could be closer, it could be farther.  I’ll just have to go see :-)

But I believe that Swan Pond will be back someday.  Looking to the south, you can see sand building up, and watch the waves splash against the sandbar that is forming.  Even as the ocean advances, the next changes are preparing themselves.  The barrier beach will reconnect itself to the Edgartown side.  The sand bar will form, move closer to the shore, and reform Swan Pond, and the cycle will begin again.

And of course that’s only a guess, because I can’t return from any walk at Wasque without being thoroughly convinced that it is nature that is in charge, and we can only watch in wonder.

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