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12088189_10207329637140552_1098530624650961937_nUnder the influence of heady salt flats, I languished in the discovery of untrammeled beach, where I spread out my blue sarapi on the sand, an old copy of Peter Benchley’s novelette, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez (1982) with its turquoise paper book jacket as faded as my cut-offs. I’m re-reading the coming-of-age story, remembering when I first read it in the 6th grade while I was living in Wiscasset. Back then, I swam off of my family’s little White’s Island in Sheepscot Harbor, and pictured the “manta diablo” appearing out of the murky green darkness of the Sheepscot River. It never happened, of course, but my sense of wonder never retreated with the tides.

This summer, I’m in southern Maine. Wearing my cowboy hat, my hips level, I shimmied down to the shore–quite a ways out, since it was low tide, in my nefarious string bikini, a pastel cloud-print one from Victoria’s Secret. It was hardly appropriate for wearing in public–but then, I’m a mer~sexual. I’m drawn to all-things from the sea. I’m 38 years old and this summer is my return to Kettle Cove, a state park overlooking Casco Bay in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. But I came here every summer in my toddler years, from the time I was a baby to the summer I was five. I can’t remember those summers–but I feel as though I must remember, somewhere, deeply embedded in my nervous system. I feel the memories, like muscle memory, that connect me to a life source, an energy here in this cove. When other people have an identity crisis, they’ve forgotten who they are; I feel as though I’ve just remembered! I am the Girl of Kettle Cove. I am the Girl by the Sheepscot River. I am not just just “the one who swims in the lakes,” but an open-water swimmer. I am the Girl of the Gulf of Maine. It felt like an epiphany.

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Swimming at Kettle Cove

Swimming through the eel grass in Kettle Cove, a nursery for sea life, and the “paddling pool” of my infancy, where my mother brought me as a baby, I must remember this cove, I think to myself the labyrinth of rocks and tide pools, paths through the meadow of floating milkweed, and wet mounds of silky strands of rockweed. Crawling through the thick eel grass bed, something in my body remembered toddling along the shore in the late ’70s, chasing sandpipers, free of the fears that would later inhibit me.

Long fronds of eel grass coiled around my wrists and forearms with every heart-shaped stroke, like a bellydancer’s bracelets that display her self-worth, her going rate–as I swim, I am richly adorned, self-satisfied and yet…grateful. I ask for nothing more than this water, this wave, this tidal current. I push out from my heart chakra, flex and relax my abdominals, imagining a balloon slowly inflate, filling my lungs with sea air, my belly with self-love and, elated, I channel that Neptune energy. Terns swoop and dive all around me; I float on my back and watch the cotillion as they turn and perform their acrobatics, fishing in pairs. Every wave that submerges my ears, momentarily stops all other noise and lets me exhale, just a breath, not a word, but a mantra nonetheless. I tip my head back and dip my hair, then put my hat back on over my wet Medusa-like head of curls, as oversized drops of saltwater drip from the straw brim. I love it here. So I will swim again tomorrow.

Poet’s note: I came across a writing prompt to take a piece of fiction (that I wrote) and attempt to turn it into poetry. Let me know what you think.

Blue Dog & the Sea Fan Girl

Most of the beach-bums packed their vans
And kids, to leave Scarborough at happy hour.
Blue Dog carried his longboard down a path
Sharply netted with the shoots and sour

Blades of dune grass. His stocky form
Read like a rap sheet, pale pink scars
Cave diving, rock climbing, surfing
With the big boys off Alaska, Hawai’i.

He didn’t wear a wetsuit, or own a car
(Commandeered a bike, or hitch-hiked)
An old shaper taught him how to carve,
Make his first board out of balsa scraps,
Coat it with resin, smooth as shark skin.

Leans into his element, a bird on a current,
High in the sky; waves, wind—he needs.
Body limp, arms held down at his sides,
Loose and controlled at the same time,
Pressed into waves like palms to wet sand.

Shoulders rolled as though waves themselves.
For fun, sometimes he let it pummel him
Into tunnels of clashing tides and flow
Of the undercurrent. Or else he might fly
Down that blue slope, rope left, tilted low
Leaning to let go, his deep ecology.

In a swoosh, Blue Dog flipped
His board, suspended upside-down
Red hair coiled, hanging jellyfish
Tentacles off a translucent face.

She moved so fast it looked to him
As though she had the tail of a fish
But kelp trailed behind her legs,
Kicking together dolphin-ish.

She smiled at him. This wasn’t
The typical reaction he got
From females; when he tried it,
Blue Dog was too aggressive, not

Good at flirting. Here was Asrai,
Waving flat coral, a sea fan to signal
One thing or another, mermaids always
Expect others to have the manual.

She snaked his waves, for once
He didn’t care; impressed
With her telehydrokinesis,
Tripped over her jets, crushed.

A sea-lust mates of another kind
Neither man nor woman satisfied
In the dark of night, at high tide
He found her in a pool, lying

In her throat, flecked mussel necklace.
His half-moon went taut, his claspers,
Stiffened. Her scent drenched his snout
As if she’d been riding on top of his head.

Asrai splashed. Suddenly he slid upon her
Scaled curvy figure and thrashed as his nose
Broke the surface. Half in the water, half out,
The shark lover rolled over, then rough-shod

Four limbs to hold her, a mouth
To kiss, not rows of teeth for a spine,
Not some island nightmare myth;
But Asrai had other treasure hunts
In mind.

Leah C. Stetson

Sniffing clam shells at the beach

A couple of weekends ago, I took my pointer-mix to the ocean for the first time. We went to one of my favorite beaches–Scarborough Beach, in Maine.

First trip to the seashore

I had her on her expandable leash so she could run but not get too far away from me. At first she liked the smells and the wide expanse of sandy beach to run. She likes meeting people and making friends with other dogs. I’m always so proud of her because she’s friendly and never growls or barks at other dogs. Big clam shells dotted the scene and she sniffed every one of them. She was less excited about the waves, which seemed to startle her. She’d been to the lake with me in September, when we swam together and she wasn’t too crazy about the little waves from boat wakes that lapped the shore. At Scarborough Beach, the waves are big enough to surf. She danced around in the wet sand as I tried to get her to wade into the cold salt water. All of the dogs we met on the beach were soaked from swimming. After all, Sophie-Bea is a water-dog. But she chickened out when the water came up to her ankles. We’ll try again in the late spring.

Not wading into that cold saltwater!

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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