Erosion's Effects Not Always Loud

Nov 19, 2013

I was startled to find that the bluffs on Little Pleasant Bay, once so heavily vegetated, are now broad raw scars. But what was even more impressive was finding the beach littered with dozens of sizable oaks and cedars, some well over a foot in diameter, that had slid down the bluff and tumbled onto the beach just in the last few years. Most had fallen over,  like soldiers taken unexpectedly at their post; but several had somehow remained upright on the beach, their leafless skeletons standing eerily at attention.        

When we live under inconstant conditions, such as on the beaches and sand spits of the Outer Beach, we expect change. Like the dune vegetation, we brace for change, we adapt to it; we change with change, so that to the casual eye it does not look like much is happening to us. But when we live in a protected environment, like the quiet coves of Pleasant Bay, unused to change, we get to feeling safe. We tend to grow, like these oak and cedar trees, to our maximum size. We spread our roots outward, feeling secure, establishing an ever firmer hold on the land.  We don’t prepare for change - we take our footing for granted, so that when change does come, rapidly and unexpectedly, it tends to be catastrophic, leaving no time to adapt. We are taken unawares, and like the prostrate bodies of these fallen trees, our end is awkward and bewildered.

This an excerpt from this week's Cape Cod Notebook. Listen to the full essay in the audio posted above.