between-our-steps-09-27-17-doubleThink of a place where the lake and land meet, a beach you like to visit, the shore where you live. Remember a place where water washes up against the shore. Think of a favorite time to be there, perhaps sunrise when the light shoots across the water, or sunset when everything is touched with colour. Remember the way the place feels on a warm still day, the way it changes when the wind picks up, how it feels in a storm.

With the lake and the bay, shorelines are prominent features of our landscape. This last spring, I was struck again by the power of water to shape this edge of land.

Back in March when the last ice clung to the edge of the bay, I took our granddaughters to the shale beach near Craigleith Provincial Park. Here the flat stone sits like steps well out into the bay. And always there are many fossils to be found.

After a winter of water washing over the rock, seeping into the crevices, freezing, many pieces had broken off the ledges. The ground was littered with flat pieces of rock. This meant there were many stones to flip over and check for fossils, which was interesting, but it also meant that the stone felt fragile and brittle. It solidity was broken.

At Easter, my churches gathered for a sunrise service at Big Bay. I am sure that when I was there a couple years ago, it was a steady slope from parking area to shore. This spring, the smooth rounded stone had been piled into a wall six feet high. Rolling waves had picked up the stones from the lake bottom and pushed them up onto the shore. Ice had pressed inland moving rocks and piling them. Water built a barrier between land and water.

Water levels are high this year, so people have been showing me the places where rock has broken away along the shore where they live. In a storm, water pounds the shoreline, pushes and pulls against the land. Wind presses waves up and over the rocks that have been piled to prevent erosion, pulling them loose.

We feel this ourselves when we stand on a sandy beach. Away from the water, the sand is hot and gives way under our feet. Walking is slow. Where water and sand meet, the sand is cool and firm, until the first wave comes. Then, as water pours up over our feet, sand is pushed up around us. As the water retreats, the sand rolls and pulls away. On a sunny day at Sauble, this can be a gentle almost massaging motion. When there is wind or on an ocean shore, the tug of the water takes so much sand with it, we can be pulled off our feet.

While we have not experienced the hurricanes directly, we have watched with concern and amazement the images of their aftermath. In these huge storms, water is driven by wind. Out over the open ocean, they gain strength but do no damage. When they hit land, destruction results.

First the wind tears. Trees bend and leaves are ripped away. Pressure builds. When the trunk can bend no more, it cracks and breaks. Houses and buildings are battered. Shingles, siding, whole roofs are pulled off. Anything not tied strongly to the ground is lifted and thrown.

The rain strikes. It does not fall, but like snow blowing horizontally, rain hits. And like snow here, it accumulates. With the major storms this fall, the rain lasts for hours so that in a flat place or a valley, it piles up.

Hurricanes hit low-laying areas hardest, so the storm surge pounds the shore, climbs up onto the land. Combined with the accumulating rain, land is flooded with water.

I cannot know what place you imagined with the opening invitation to think of your favorite shoreline spot, but I am guessing it was a place of soothing rhythm, a place where water nourishes your Spirit. But storms are real. Ice breaks rock. Waves erode shoreline. Water, a liquid we think of as soft and flowing, refreshing and calming, can be destructive, strong, and harder than rock.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.


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