The winter months expose people’s souls to anyone interested in observing them. Many people become ‘snow bunnies’ this time of year by traveling south to warmer homes. Those who decide to stay observe what is truly a remarkable event.
All of the seasons of the year demonstrate the natural beauty of our coast. By far the most exciting observation I can make is becoming part of a coastal storm. These storms always start with a lull. Not you’re ordinary quiet, but a time so serene you can’t hear anything, only the void promising to become exceptional.
The gulls and the winds whistling through the cottages near the beach have been told to be silent in hopes they will be left alone by the upcoming storm. It is a time when those who can walk to the water’s edge to watch the low tide go ever lower in preparation for the waters destined to explode on the beach.
The people are not the only ones who flock to the beach in the lull before the storm. The gulls also come to a collective realization they must fly to the beach in preparation for what is destined to begin. They are more courageous than their human counterparts. They stand precariously perched on one leg near where the surf meets the sand to stare into the water en masse like members of a religious cult awaiting their messiah.
The impending storm toys with the emotions of its observers. It first blows gentle streams of fresh salted air that stir recollections of the gentler time. Then the ocean shows its first white frothing heads bobbing out of the ocean like small rubber bath toys. Soon the sea becomes a bubbling cauldron of milky foam and spray.
The air around the few observers who dared to dare the sea explodes with glimmering sparks of mist. The wind forces the viewers to squint into what has always been and will always be as long as people allow life to exist on this planet.
The gulls at this point continue to pray to their gull God. in hopes that mercy will keep them from being swept into the depths of the now violent ocean. At the peak of the storm, the skies and the sea become one, torn in half by the waves and violent water. Nothing else exists. Nothing else dares to exist.
If there was ever a time when beauty and violence co-exist, the coastal storm is the pinnacle of both. The storm also puts the dreams of the observer into perspective. The day-to-day reality of life seems so desperately insignificant when compared to such violent majesty. Yet the strength of nature, as reflected by the storm, inspires a sense that anything is possible, even achievable.
The beauty of the storm is that no one ever sees it to the end. Most viewers grow too cold or tired and head for shelter. The only thing that remains is the stark, gray tone that hangs in the air and over the ocean.
It’s a color that has never been successfully reproduced. Like a sunset over the volcanoes of Hawaii or the blinding white of a snowstorm in the Mount Washington Valley, the gray of a coastal storm registers directly on the mind as a feeling, a sensation of power.
There are many reasons why people yearn to be by the ocean. The serenity, the perpetually fresh sea breezes, or the hypnotic sound of the waves striking the beach could be but a few. I love living here for one simple reason. I am allowed to observe everything the coast has to offer.
The Definition of a New England Nor’easter by Jim Fabiano.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and writer living in York, Maine.
You can e-mail Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org