Tuesday, October 7, 2008

See Star

A relative who has spent decades along the coast of Maine remarked how much the near-shore wildlife has changed. As a youth, he remembers many jellyfish. Starfish, too. Both long gone.

A family hike along Rockland's Breakwater brought some wistfulness. No jellyfish, but a few starfish, just off the rocks, and deep, shimmering through the rolling waves.

Said relative remembered many tourist-trap photos of shorelines and tide pools, often featuring a starfish. He never saw one onshore, in all the many years he crawled the rocks and poked into crevices cradling sea debris. He always suspected the photos were seeded, and a good photographer would have to consider that. Also a lifelong habitant.

Owl's Head State Park is as you picture it: scenic lighthouse on a rocky promontory, gravel beach, overlooking Rockland Harbor and the distant Breakwater Light. Though free and open, it's not a place to drop money or haul away official souvenirs Made In China, so few but fans of a little accessible natural coastal wildness crawl the shoreline, poking the high-tide debris lines for sea glass and other maritime treasures.

Said relative saw an odd little soggy flesh-colored finger of something, the length of one segment of a little finger, the thickness of a pencil. Why sharp eyes fell upon this is and held attention is the mystery you can imagine. When taken to hand, the something was a wet bundle of appendages, unfoldable with gentle fingertips. Quarter-size, it was a sea star.

You can fill in the story yourself from here, remarking how this could happen after all the decades past, an unattractive tiny sprig of goo, spotted amongst so much other more notable bric-a-brac, discovered and cherished, the first star brought home in all the many years.

Maybe there were many to be found in all that time, but they were unrecognized because they did not appear as expected, never as on the tourist postcards. So perhaps we can say that there may be uncountable other stars to be discovered in Life, if only we affix our eyes on unremarkables, lift them free of the common clutter, and allow them to unfold and reveal their glory in a warm human hand.