A Wild Shore



-----Far down the Texas coast toward Mexico is a wild coast, protected by the federal government as a National Wildlife Refuge. Here life follows the timeless rhythm of nature. It is possible to cruise and anchor on the margins of this wilderness. It is a special place.


-----Stillness -- utter quietude overwhelms the senses. Our lives are tuned to certainties, and, not the least, our hearing demands attention -- but there is nothing.

-----For long moments, I have stood in the cockpit alone, leaning over the transom -- ears searching far into the dank, foggy darkness of the predawn -- and nothing returns. Is this the horror of the deaf -- the certitude of the grave? Sudden sounds strike fear into the brain, but silence makes the soul cringe.

-----The half moon is dimmed by the sea fog and faintly glistens off the mirror surface of the lagoon. There! Hear it? Far off -- from the dark misshapen lumps of brush that line the far reach of the oxbow -- there -- again. Yes, it is a sound. The mournful "wooooh, wooooh, wooh, wooooh" of a Barred Owl -- that storied bird of legends. The harbinger of death, in many tribal tales.

-----For whom do you call this night? "Whooo? Whooo?"

-----The origin of those sagas seems imperatively obvious -- from the deathly stillness of black night comes the muted monotony of the messenger - "wooooh wooooh."

-----I listen, transfixed by the mere existence of sound -- by the knowledge that at least one other heart beats near mine in the utter stillness.

-----Light fades as clouds cover the remnants of a misty moon -- a slight hiss -- then a constant "sssssssss" comes from the north, steadily growing in intensity. The Windigo? That fearful canoe? -- Windigo, legendary craft paddled by the dead, coming to pick up yet another soul -- the owl falls silent, as though he, too, fears the Windigo. The hiss comes closer and steadily louder down the lagoon toward me. I stand, frozen in the cockpit -- primordial feelings of Neanderthal man surging in my chest. Suddenly, it is here -- enveloping me and pounding on the hull and canopy -- rain!

-----Dawn is the lonely time -- the promise of the day is tantalizingly near, yet still over the horizon. To hasten its arrival, and clear my head of somber legends, I turn on the stove. Soon the gentle thumping of diesel surging into flame fills the silent cabin. I count the scoops of coffee and reality returns. Aroma overwhelms the lack of sound with the fullness of odor. Day, and life, begins on Laguna Atascosa.


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