I needed to get the hell out of Pennsylvania. That's a whole story in itself, and I'll save that for another time. The forecast was good after two days of rain, so I found a cheap rental car, a cheap motel, and here I am in Rehoboth Beach for the weekend, where I managed to write a draft of a new story and read some student manuscripts. The plan was to stay in Rehoboth Beach, but it came clear to me that Assateague Island, home of wild ponies, wasn't all that far away, just an hour or so south, on the southern side of Ocean City. I was no sooner inside the national seashore when I saw the telltale signs of poop by the road, poop on the bike trails, poop on the parking lots, poop on the grassy banks. Such magnificent poop! It least it was clear the wild ponies were resourceful, were finding plenty of food to eat. And there was one to my right, right beside the road, his coat an unlikely color, more appealing than you'd expect of a wild creature who fed on salt marsh grass: a tannic color, like the color of cedar water, in the shallow boggy lakes of the coastal northeast. And manes the color of wheat, or the winter color of the marsh grass they eat. Magnificent creatures, especially when seen from a distance, trudging through the tidal creeks and mosquito ditches as if they weren't exactly in Maryland, but in their own Serengeti.
I couldn't leave Assateague without getting out of the car. It was windless, a winter-scrubbed sun, the air temp in the low to mid fifties, which felt relatively balmy. I parked, walked out onto the beach. The beach by the shoreline was almost as hard as pavement, no slope; it couldn't have been better for walking or running; I wish I'd brought my running shoes. On the sand itself: the detached spikes of horseshoe crabs, egg casings, the longest, fattest oyster shells I'd ever seen, chunks of driftwood the color of wet redwood, crab cases inspected by little flies. It was a bit of a shock to see so much life--well, death--at the beach this far north in late January. I stuffed my coat pockets with shells until the shells started falling out. I walked up to the dune, which for whatever reason, was enclosed with electric fencing: two barbed strands held up by posts every--ten feet apart? I lay down on the sand, in my black canvas coat, face heated by the sun. I stretched out my arms and stayed like that until I got bored, which was longer than I would have expected. Not a single person walked by. I listened to the waves. If death could be like this, then it could be something we could bear.