Mudlarking at the Beauport
The harbor is still, the air thick with a reluctant fog. A solitary old woman, dressed in a long black coat and a red hat, walks along the low tide line, head lowered, inspecting the narrow beach, bending occasionally to pick up shiny little bits of sea glass. She pecks intently at the ground, inspecting, deciding, pocketing some pieces, throwing others back into the sea. Crows and seagulls drift about, lazily calling to one another, following her closely while keeping watch for any glimmering object or stray clam. The immortal infinity between water and sky makes flight seem possible. A wind comes up, gentle at first, then stronger, sweeping away the reluctant fog. The lady walks along the water’s edge, propelled by the billowings of her dark coat. Whenever she stops to look more closely at a glinting something-or-other, the birds, now multiplied, all rush to her, gathering ‘round to see what she has discovered. She is lost in a cloud of birds. She seems to be one of them. The birds swirl up in a sudden gust. The lady grabs for her hat too late, the wind spinning it high over the water. She squawks in dismay. A quick-thinking crow swoops, snatches the hat in its beak, circles back and drops it on the beach at the lady’s feet. She bends low, places her prize red hat on her head, then arches her back, spreading her arms wide in jubilation. She looks up now at the swarm of shrieking birds, her coat undulating in appreciation. Suddenly she rises with it, up, up into the crow-filled sky and flies off to sea, leaving her red hat on the beach.