The surf was fairly high and barreling into the shore, though high tide was still over three hours away. We walked quickly past most of the beachgoers, who were beginning to head in, and stopped about a third of a mile down the beach near a few other casters.
It was already dusk and growing dark, and soon we could no longer see the cast hit the water or the angle of the line, but played it by feel. The evening was nearly completely calm, and things appeared and disappeared as shadowy dark forms. A large flock of gulls flew by, coughing huskily, and I could hear a few yellow legs whistling among them.
To the west, a thin line of lights appeared on the far shore across Nauset Marsh. I thought of Henry Beston out here, looking at the scattered lights of Eastham Village from his little dune cottage more than 80 years ago. The lights are different now, more numerous and brighter, and the dunes are a mere suggestion of what the life-saving crew saw when they walked down the night beach from the old Coast Guard Station; but the essence, and the effect on us, were the same – a sense of vast exposure, and visible distance from the haunts of men, a freewheeling, circulating life, a place of primal gestations.
We cast over and over into the calm, glassy swells, getting no strikes, so we set our poles and sat at the top of the berm.
There was a softness, a gauziness to everything here such as I had never known on the beach before, so that the presence or absence of fish did not really matter, as it shouldn’t. It seemed as if we sat on some far shore, desultorily engaged in one of the few interactions with the wild that still require little effort or skill. Our black poles sat in their black sockets, with only a slight bend and rocking of the tips registering the movement of the weight along the bottom to let us know we were tied by invisible filaments to the tumult of the waves beyond.