Last Friday, Madalene and I set out for a walk along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in the Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island. This is about a fifteen minute drive from our home. We parked our car in the small, empty parking lot, and climbed the few steps to the railingless boardwalk that gently wound its way over the dunes toward the ocean. By the time we reached the shore’s expanse, we were half a dozen steps above the edge of a dune that we padded through with the slipping step one does on damp but not firm sand. While we stood on the shore deciding which way to go, Madalene spotted a dark shape near us among the scattered weeds and driftwood. On its back, its neck extended and its beak closed, was a dead cormorant. There could have been blood on its abdomen. We studied it for a while, since we don’t get to see them up close that often, though a dead cormorant does not contribute nearly as much to the experience as a live one.
Nevertheless, I had never expected that some day, setting out for a short walk not far from home, I might come across a dead cormorant. A change in place is an experience that engenders other experiences in a way that few other changes can. Even if subtle changes between our life in the Appalachian Mountains of north central Pennsylvania and our life on the North Shore of Massachusetts elude my observation, enough big ones keep waking me up and refreshing my senses.