Sunday, January 10, 2010

January 10: Breakwater Walk

Two of my New Year's resolutions were to spend more time outdoors and to step up my exercise regime. I believe that when you put a resolution out there, you are given the means to fulfill it. So when my friend Brian called this morning to ask if I wanted to walk the Rockland Breakwater, I remembered those resolutions and had to agree, despite temperatures in the teens.

It's about a one-mile walk from the parking lot to the lighthouse at the end of the long jetty. As you walk out atop its giant granite blocks, which are fit together like pieces of a massive 3-D puzzle, you're basically walking on a stone bridge that ends in the middle of the outer harbor. Sea ducks, loons, gulls, and guillemots bob in the waves on either side of you. Depending on the weather and tides, waves sometimes crash against the seaward side of the wall to spray across the rocks (and you), or an unusually high tide may have creeped over the farthest end, leaving the lighthouse rising above the waves as if it were a little island unto itself. The ferries to Vinalhaven and North Haven go to and fro. In the summer, lobster boats check their traps within shouting distance, and sailboats breeze past. You're conscious of being exposed to the elements--people have died from being struck by lightning out there. And no matter what the season, there's always a penetrating wind that seems to carry the force of the entire Atlantic Ocean behind it.

This morning's walk out wasn't too bad. We were both dressed warmly enough and the wind was at our backs. Most of the rocky surface remained relatively ice-free, enabling us to pick our way with relative ease. Long-tailed ducks gobbled nearby, and a little guillemot in its winter white plumage posed for a photograph. We even hung out for awhile in the lee of the lighthouse, trying to absorb some sunlight and warmth before the walk back in the teeth of the wind.

The wind's teeth this morning were those of a shark. My body was warm enough, but because part of my face was exposed, every sinus in my head ached. My contacts blurred in the frigid blasts of the northwest wind. I would like to have better admired the beauty of the snow-covered Camden Hills in the distance behind the Samoset Resort, but I couldn't really see. At one point, a loon surfaced quite close but disappeared before I could point it out to photographer Brian. I kept mistaking buoys for ducks. But there's nothing for it but to keep on walking, and eventually we stepped down off the wall onto the beach. I think both of us were a little pleased with ourselves for enduring, though really, what choice did we have? And this was for fun, after all.

We walk on ocean,
on urchins, on ice-sprayed stones--
cold realm of the gulls.

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