Dead bunker on the bay

Bunker dominate the bay. They’re a big reason why dolphins, stripers, and humpback whales wander just off our beach. My grandchild calls them “skyfish” when she sees one wiggling in the talons of an osprey as it flies overhead.

Chances are you’ve seen pieces of larger bunker along the tide line–stiff, gray, dead.

This little guy was also stiff and dead, but its brilliant colors jumped at me as I ambled along the ferry jetty. A storm tide had left him on the wrong side of the rocks and the gulls had yet to find him.

I tried to toss it back into the canal, but with the stiff breeze, it fell between the jetty rocks, a treat for the crabs.

David Douglass Sr. Memorial Park

(My sister has a park named after her in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m sure many locals call it many different names and I’m fine with that. My clan calls the David Douglass Sr. Memorial Park “the ferry jetty” and many locals have a variety of names for this tiny patch of paradise. This post is to remind all of us about the man whose name adorns the small monument at the park entrance.)

January 17, 2022

North Cape May is not a large neighborhood, only about 1 1/2 square miles. The bay gives us an air of grandness bigger than our britches.

Patrolman David Douglass Sr. was shot and killed in our neighborhood almost 28 years ago while pursuing a suspected burglar. The suspect fired at Officer Douglass, mortally wounding him. His body now rests in the Cold Spring Presbyterian Church cemetery just a couple of miles away from the park.

David Douglass Sr. Memorial Park gazebo overlooking the canal and the bay,

A plaque memorializes his name at the entrance to the park, but perhaps the words of friends, family, and neighbors give a better sense of the loss felt by our neighborhood.

David Douglass Sr. was both a local police officer and firefighter. He was a husband and father to a son and two daughters, the oldest only 15 at the time of his death. He has both a school and a park named after him, and his son has followed his steps into law enforcement.

Ferry in the distance on its way to Delaware.

Next time you amble down the narrow road to the park, take a moment to view the memorial honoring the man. I hope it brings some comfort to the family, as I get comfort from seeing my sister’s name on her park.

Weather or not

Short of stepping outside, the ferry is our best low-tech weather forecaster. If you can hear their horns clearly, a lovely southern breeze promises a decent day. If you hear nothing at all, beware, a nor’easter may be blowing in soon.

Far more sophisticated, though, is the NOAA buoy weather station that sits right in our neighborhood, just feet away from where the ferries port each night. (Yes, I know, it’s not a buoy.)

Sitting by the water’s edge like an awkward cousin of C-3PO, this station collects real-time data available to all of us, a high-tech center that collects pretty much any type of data you could want (and plenty of data you might never have thought of before).

For most of us, the temperature, wind speed/direction, and water temperature tell us what we need to know on a given day. When a nor’easter rolls in on the heels of a moon tide, you can watch the water level rise in real time as well look at extremes in the past.

(Just under six years ago the water rose three feet over the mean high tide burying North Wildwood. Two years later the bay receded 2 ½ feet befuddling the ferry captains while delighting any clammers braving the January blow. )

As the days get chillier you can watch the rate of ice accretion as the Delaware Bay starts to freeze over.

Delaware Bay, December 2010

You can wander to the ferry terminal to see the equipment (but it won’t tell you much) or you can explore the page below available to everyone. Few towns get this kind of information, and it is literally right in our neighborhood.

(You could just take a walk on the beach.)

Our town’s heartbeat

Ferry returning home in late December

We do not have a town village nor a town clock, but we do have the ferries, coming and going and coming and going, day by day by day.

In the winter months, the ferry’s horn welcomes us at dawn–a short toot just before 7 AM, then the familiar toooooooot toot-toot-toot a minute later–like the town clock bells of old.

You can gather the weather report without electronic media. If you can hear their horns clearly, a lovely southern breeze promises a decent day. If you hear nothing at all, beware, a nor’easter may be blowing in soon.

You may hear tales of drama–TOOT-TOOT-TOOT-TOOT-TOOT –as yet another squid plays footsies with a vessel with a displacement of over 4 million pounds.

Yes, they don’t toot for grandchildren!

And finally, if you have a grand baby old enough to wave from the jetty (but not old enough yet to shave). a friendly captain will often toot a hello for her, and she will be a ferry fan for life.

North Cape May snowfall

Delaware Bay from Beach Avenue

The light today hummed–a gentle snow fall, a hint of fog, a chill but not much breeze, a good day to be outside.

In a few months, the beaches will be busy with humans again.

In the meantime, breathe and enjoy.

“Literal” is abstract: the bay tells us so

Reading about 30 knot gusts registered by a weather station just a mile away is abstract. Federal funds maintain my local station, and I read it religiously.

CMAN4, at the Cape May ferry dock (photo by NOAA)

Thinking about the wind and clams and life as I drag my rake through the mud is literal.

The real happens when the words fade away, when  “I” (never real) dissolve in the salty mist of the strong breeze coming off the flats.

What is real is as unknowable as the shiver of life felt when a rake’s tine carves a line in a quahog. I find the line later, as I wash the mud off the clams under running water, like blood from a deep cut, reminded (again) of the violence even in clamming.

The strike of tine against clam is real.

The clam knows something at that moment, as I know something, but words serve neither of us as I curl three fingers under its perfect shape, a tinge (literal) that my imperfect state (abstract) requires eating (literal, again).

We take mammals made for running under the sun and the stars, made for climbing and dancing and singing and playing, and (literally) make them human (abstract) at the cost of the real. Show me a child who loves schooling, and I’ll show you another lamb who has lost her way.

1921 classroom, by Lewis Wickes Hine, via Shorpy
Clamming reconnects me to what is real. So does gardening. And stargazing.

You have your ways, too. We all do, or did, anyway, before we let the abstract get in the way.

All the words and pictures I seek, the ones I share, are useless if just reading and looking are the goals. The goals remain wordless but not unknowable.

But sometimes all we can do is point and hope.

And try to assess that on a standardized test, Mr. Coleman.