The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson
One memorable fall day when I was in grade school, my teacher Mrs. Bowden handed each of us a sheet of paper filled with leaves (cranked out on a Gestetner—remember the delicious smell of fresh blue ink?) and we were instructed to color them red and orange. What? Alberta had poplar and birch trees and everyone knew that their leaves turned yellow.
Mrs. Bowden said the strange-shaped leaves on the handout were maple leaves and they grew Out East, and that we should just get colouring. Once we were done she taped our red and orange leaves all around the classroom. How gorgeous they were! How rich! I felt like I had been transported into a magic kingdom.
Now I live in that magic kingdom. Walking to the Cove one late autumn afternoon with red maple leaves falling silently about us, carpeting the ground in amber and crimson, I wondered once again how I deserved such splendor. The setting sun cast golden highlights on every branch and twig, the air was soft and warm, and clouds raced across the sky in an air show just for us.
The tide being out, we walked around the point to “the shore” where debris washes up after a storm, and sure enough, mountains of seaweed, rocks and shells had been neatly rolled up by the high tides. We picked our way gingerly along the shoreline, for the sandstone was black and slippery with algae. I was about to step onto a dry red rock when I noticed some glistening orange-brown organisms growing out of it. I bent down to take a closer look and realized that these decorative swellings were “holdfasts” or footings of rockweeds that had been growing along our coast.
Rockweeds are descendents of some of earth’s most ancient plants. Rachel Carson writes: “[Rockweeds] may have been the first of the sea plants to colonize the shore. They learned to adjust themselves to alternating periods of submersion and exposure on ancient coastlines swept by strong tides; they came as close to a land existence as they could without actually leaving the tidal zone.” (p. 58, The Rocky Coast, 1955.)
Red maple leaves, rockweed holdfasts, ancient coastlines: we are surrounded by prehistoric rhythms, patterns and miracles that rule our lives even when we are blissfully unaware of them. And now, following rhythms that have been ours from birth we enter a month of festivity. We celebrate HANNUKAH with its candles and dreidels; CHRISTMAS with its cookies and presents; the SOLSTICE when the North Pole starts tilting back towards the sun; followed by NEW YEAR’S DAY when the calendar proclaims the commencement of 365 days with the possibility of new things happening—although we hope life will reliably chug along in the same good old way.
It’s hard to break loose from these rhythms even if we wanted to, and why would we want to? Hold fast to this wonderful season of friendship and miracles. If rockweeds can do it, so can we.