Excerpt from Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka by Deborah Carr
The tide is on its ebb flow.
At water’s edge, a woman lies on her back, arms outstretched, palms skyward, feet pointed to the sea. Mud pillows her head and shoulders as the water swirls around her, lifting strands of her hair, tickling the shadowed crannies of her ears. Sunlight warms her tanned and lined face, gravity smoothing its creases. Her body wavers with the rhythm of the tide, arms and legs briefly buoyant. Suspended between the elements, she is a creature of both, carrying the solidity of land and the fluidity of sea.
She is in and of the world, in communion with the bay, imagining cones of light penetrating her skin, reflecting as rays filter through water. She feels the familiar cadence of the tide as if it had been there all along, rocking in her soul. From birth, she’d always found comfort in water.
She has been shaped by many places, but she belongs here at Mary’s Point. There are those who assume the point was named after her, and this pleases her, but the scythe-shaped hook of land jutting into the Bay of Fundy was named for a different Mary: an Acadian Mi’kmaq outcast who bridged cultures and danced to her own music. A woman who, long ago, found sanctuary at Mary’s Point and then death on the Fundy tides.
As the tide pulls back from the shore, the woman is left behind, like a piece of driftwood. The breeze cools her skin, drying the warm, briny water to a fine residue. She lies motionless, eyes closed, giving herself to sensation and sound.
Presently, her hearing sharpens, perceiving murmurs of life. Exposed mud crackles as millions of minute mud shrimp the size of a fingernail clipping emerge from flooded burrows to feed on algae left behind by the retreating tide. She feels the subtle movement of their activity beneath her resting fingertips.
She lies quiet . . . waiting, anticipating. Within moments, sound rolls over her like a wave and she is surrounded.
Tens of thousands of migratory sandpipers and plovers flood the glistening flats, long beaks bobbing up and down, collecting the tiny shrimp. The large flocks had been resting on the sand and pebbled beach throughout high tide, waiting. Their gentle peeps and the patter of so many tri-pronged feet slapping the silt swells to a crescendo. She slowly turns her face sideways, opening her eyes to watch.
Everything in the world suddenly funnels down into the perfection and intensity of this moment. There is only the woman, the mud, the tide; the tiny shrimp beneath her fingertips, the sandpipers close enough to touch. Tears form at the outer corners of her eyes and overflow, rolling past her ears, down the curve of her neck, to drop onto the mud, mingling with the salty puddles left behind by the tide.
© copyright 2010 Deborah Carr (excerpt from Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka)
It’s the shorebird migration on the Bay of Fundy.