Delights: July 29 to August 4

July 29: I saw a cluster of people gathered around an Assateague beach fisherman. My nephews, nieces and I joined the crowd. The fisherman held aloft a juvenile skate for our inspection (and photos) before returning it to the sea.

An Atlantic Ocean skate caught from the beach of Assateague Island.

The fisherman and I chatted a bit after the onlookers dispersed. He said he’d once caught a stingray at the beach in Cape Hatteras “as big as your car.” Then he pointed to a pair of kayaks resting next to fishing poles planted deep in the sand. “Those guys,” he said, “will paddle their kayaks far off shore, drop a big chunk of bait attached to a hook and line, and then return to their fishing poles anchored on shore. Earlier this week they caught a couple of 4-foot sharks that way.”

Gulp. Sure enough, the kids and I watched the guys paddle deep into the ocean and back. But a family of wild ponies wandered toward the surf to cool off and we forgot about the kayaks and big bait.

The daddy pony leading his family from the surf.

A few hours later, another crowd gathered by the fishermen. One of them had caught a 4-foot shark. After more photos, the fishermen released the shark and chucked the bait with it. (Too close to shore, for my taste.) While we were all marveling at the shark and trying to decide whether to be scared, the ponies came back in a send-in-the-clowns moment.

Just then, Nate trotted down to the beach and invited me to boogie board with him while he surfed the distant waves. We caught one ride together (“party wave!”) and definitely no sharks. 

The fishermen caught a thresher shark. I now know that the only documented human fatality from a thresher shark attack occurred after the person pulled its tail. No surfer would do that!

July 30: Back when I bought four awesome (= expensive) tickets for the Nationals-Cardinals game tonight, it had made sense. My brother-in-law (a huge Cardinals fan) was supposed to leave the beach the following day and he would need a ride back to the Washington, DC, airport. So I’d drive him back and we’d sneak in a baseball game with Nate and Jeremiah the night before.

Then Loyd’s flight changed. We were now 140 miles away, and I still had those tickets.

What’s a baseball fan to do? Sightsee with the family in the morning, help Nate make a pot of fabulous crab soup, and then jump into my Prius — so that, two and a half hours later, I could sip cocktails along the Anacostia riverfront in the shadow of the ballpark. Oh, and before driving back to the beach that night, cheer for an amazing Nats come-from-behind victory. 

July 31: What did you do on Friday? We went to the beach. What did you do the day before that — and the day before that? We went to the beach.

Well, what did you do today? We went to the beach — and got evacuated because a fragment of World War II ordnance washed ashore. 

The U.S. Navy used Assateague’s beaches as a test range for rockets and bombs in the 1940s and buried the debris in pits in the 1950s. But with sea level rise and the natural movement of the island, some of those pits are now offshore — and, thanks to a Nor’easter in May, are exposed to wave action and beach deposits. 

Most of the military munition debris — at least seven pieces have washed ashore on Assateague Island over the last two weeks — are just metal fragments. But some might contain residue of explosives or propellants. Boom.   

We dutifully left the beach — with fewer waves, fewer seashells and fewer pony sightings today. But a cool story to tell.

This aerial view (from a newspaper article about the munition debris) shows Sinepuxent Bay on the left and the Atlantic Ocean on the right, with the northern tip of Assateague Island pointing toward Ocean City, Maryland, across an inlet. You can also see how much Assateague Island has drifted inland (compared to Ocean City) since 1933 when a storm severed the island and created the inlet.

August 1: When we walk to Sinepuxent Bay from our house, we see the finger-wide bay nestled between piney marshland and grassy sand dunes. When we drive to Assateague Island, we cross the bay as it burbles over clam beds and the ankles of wild ponies. When we sip drinks along the marina, we see a fingertip of the bay tickle the fishing boats and restaurant piers. And when we watch the sun set from Assateague, we see the bay reflect oranges and purples from its channels and pools.

Today, when ten of us boarded a pontoon boat for a late afternoon cruise, we saw the ocean pines, grassy marshland, fishing boats and Assateague’s bayside beaches the way Sinepuxent Bay sees them: so close and so magical. And best of all, we disembarked onto Assateague and frolicked in the bay itself — warm, shallow, and very welcoming. Maybe it, too, was glad for a chance to say hello.

My Sinepuxent Bay and Iowa families all together.

August 2: As though a day of skates, sharks and ponies weren’t enough, on Friday Nate hosted a “crab boil” for the entire family. “We will grill hotdogs just in case,” Nate assured me. 

Everybody pitched in: setting up tables and covering them in newspaper; pouring drinks; opening camp chairs; bringing out plates and mallets. (“Forks, Nate?” “Nope, we’ll eat with our hands.”) And all of us gaped as four dozen steamed Maryland blue crabs joined the party. 

My nephews skillfully extracted crab meat (or at least hammered the shells) and advertised the gleanings to adventurous Midwesterners. My nieces baked brownies for dessert. Nate served a flavorful “boil” of sausages, new potatoes, corn on the cob, and Old Bay seasoning. Everyone ate with their hands and joyfully toasted the cook.

Crabs 11, Hot dogs, 0.

Not a Maryland blue crab, sand crab, ghost crab or any other kind of crab. But this seashell-encrusted horseshoe crab washed ashore and soon acquired a new fan. Susan, this photo is for you!

Anti-bonus: Today, within hours of the Major League Baseball trade deadline, my beloved Washington Nationals traded our beloved young phenom Juan Soto for lots of minor league talent. My heart is pierced. Our 2019 World Series victory is tepid consolation right now.

August 3: Saying farewell — to beach, ocean, family (and Juan Soto) — is very hard, even when we are exhausted from so many blessings. But so it must be, until next year and the year after that and the year after that….

I took this photo by accident. How I love the smiles.

Bonus: Did I already say I was exhausted? Yes. Do I harbor any last wellsprings of energy? Apparently so, because after a long day of cleaning, loading, driving and saying goodbye to our Iowa family, I decided that the parking lot of our favorite El Salvadoran restaurant was a dandy place for an after-dinner conversation with Nate. We talked about breast cancer and serenity, power and grace. We talked about Nate’s impending trip to Paris, Athens, Madrid and more. We watched a man park his car across the street, spread a prayer rug on the asphalt, and before midnight perform Isha salah. (From my car, I prayed a bit with him.) And we started up our cars at 1:37 am, four hours after our conversation began. I’d say that’s a great way to end a loving day.

These two boats, photographed during our Sinepuxent Bay cruise, capture me perfectly today.

August 4: Last night, Nate told me a story from his trip to El Salvador. He said he befriended a 17-year old Brazilian who, Nate said, had surfing skills and agility far exceeding his own. The boy was eager to practice his English and Nate, ever the teacher, was happy to oblige. On Nate’s last day in El Salvador, the boy paddled up to Nate in the crowded surfers’ line-up and announced, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” Nate squinted at him. “We?” “Yes,” the boy said. “I’ll position myself for a great wave and launch into it. Then I’ll fall down and you ‘drop in’ on me to take the wave instead.” 

Nate smiled and agreed. Although it didn’t quite work as planned, Nate’s speech faltered as he described the boy’s gesture — to someone 11 years his senior, to an “old guy” who’d extended a bit of simple kindness to the boy and who was repaid by the greatest gift the boy could give him. 

I’ll never see the wave or the boy. And yet I can see — and feel — all that generosity and goodness (and grace) cast joyfully into the universe.

Assateague Island along Sinepuxent Bay

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If you’d like to browse my past delights, please consult the “word cloud” featured at the very bottom of this post. Find a theme or two that interests you and sift through the sands. Or learn a bit more about my Blog by visiting my Welcome page. You’ll also see links to four essays that were published in print magazines. I’m glad you’re here!

Ocean City amusements from Sinepuxent Bay
A sunset across Sinepuxent Bay from Assateague Island (2021)

14 thoughts on “Delights: July 29 to August 4

  1. What a fantastic week – so many delights to share! I would have enjoyed the crabs I must say, but so many mini adventures – the skates, sharks ponies, the ordinance find…lots of real highlights for you this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing my excitement. You are so right about mini adventures! And I didn’t mention miniature golf, visiting an independent book store and cocktail hour! An abundance of blessings.


  2. Beautiful scenes! The skate is quite a visual surprise (to me) – the car-sized stingray would have been something else. Beautiful sunset.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was surprised by the skate and news of a car-sized stingray too. My young nephew said he’d seen a stingray in the ocean; I (gently, unfairly) dismissed that, because I thought they preferred warmer water. Providence found an immediate way to humble me and lead me to an apology!

      And thanks for your kind words about the sunset. It was hard to choose just one!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What an awesome week, so many adventures and great stories. Good food and wonderful settings
        What more could you want 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I was relieved to read that the skate and shark were released with no injury (except, perhaps, to their dignity). Beautiful creatures deserve a long, beautiful life. And speaking of beauty, those ponies are amazing, evidently totally unconcerned by the presence of humans. What a week you had (again!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree about the fishermen’s practice of catch-and-release. I hope no harm done. And it was certainly exciting for all of us. I’m glad they didn’t attempt what I saw a small-fish fisherman do before returning his catch: kiss it goodbye on the head! Thanks for sharing my adventures with me!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. And, yes, the ponies are remarkable. My husband Kevin is convinced that they wait in the bike path for him to stop his bike ride and take photos. My son the surfer just moans about how they clog the roads or bother the campers!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with Platypus Man. And what fun to see those ponies. You live in an amazing place. As for breast cancer…twelve years this month. Except for creaky knees, I’m still going strong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ponies are such a special treat. Even though folks have stories about their misbehavior, we are the visitors, so they have some right to be bossy. Regarding breast cancer, this month (too) is my 15th year since diagnosis. I’m grateful you are going strong, except for creaky knees — ME TOO!

      Here’s a piece I wrote about my BC experience. I was very lucky! Someday over grilled bread I’ll hear your story too!


  5. To many such adventures and together times, faraway games and endless talks, but to no other farewell of a favourite. As least you still got Luka. 🙂 (This just in: Goran Dragić declares “I’m Back” like some Jordan! He finally agreed that he would join Luka and the rest of the Slovenian team at the September Euro Championship, where Slovenia will defend the title. Hurrah!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew you would understand! And yes, I was very much thinking of Luka & you. Thanks also for sharing news of Goran Dragić. I enjoyed watching him play with 18-year old Luka in the last Euro Championship game. I can’t wait to see them together again!


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