By Frank Bidart
You know that it is there, lair
where the bear ceases
for a time even to exist.
Crawl in. You have at last killed
enough and eaten enough to be fat
enough to cease for a time to exist.
Crawl in. It takes talent to live at night, and scorning
others you had that talent, but now you sniff
the season when you must cease to exist.
Crawl in. Whatever for good or ill
grows within you needs
you for a time to cease to exist.
It is not raining inside
tonight. You know that it is there. Crawl in.
Tuesday the original plan was to get up and go to Assateague National Seashore relatively early, but it was raining in the morning, so Paul took the boys to the pool for awhile before lunch and we left in the early afternoon when the rain had slowed to a drizzle. We stopped at the national park information center first, where we saw two movies -- one on the ecosystem of Assateague and Chincoteague during the various seasons, and one on the wild ponies and other animals of the barrier islands. There was also a touch pool with marine animals and some tanks of fish and shellfish in the visitor center.
We saw ponies almost immediately upon crossing the bridge into the park, grazing between the road and the salt marshes. We also saw white-tail deer, which are suppposed to be plentiful in the park but have been driven out by the Asian sika, a species of elk which were released on the island by some Boy Scouts and are driving the deer out (they're very cute and quite unafraid of people, at least). We stopped at a shipwreck site, a salt marsh where people were fishing for the plentiful blue crabs and clams, and along the Atlantic coast where we saw mole crabs and the little clams that burrow into the sand, plus the terns and seagulls that dig them out with their beaks to eat them. It drizzled on and off during these stops but it was blissfully cool, below 80 degrees all day, and since there wasn't thunder we could wade in the bay and the ocean.
The drive from Bethany to Assateague took us through Ocean City, so on the way back in the evening we had dinner at the original Phillips Crab House, where we used to go with Aunt Shirley and Uncle Paul during my childhood. We have come to the conclusion that Phillips is not close to the best seafood around but we wanted to eat there for nostalgia's sake, and their crab bisque is still excellent (the crab cakes and au gratin are good as well, I just think they're overpriced compared to similar restaurants). After dinner we drove past the high rise where we stayed a few times in my early teens -- the Braemor -- and came back for games and dessert while Dad watched part of the James Bond marathon on cable.
Sika in the tall grasses leading to the salt marsh.
Remains of a coastal shipwreck.
A blue crab lurking below the waterline, trying to snatch bait and escape with it.
This crab appeared not to be so lucky, but its size was in its favor: crabs less than five inches across must be replaced in the marsh to grow.
Seabirds digging for mole crabs and clams in the surf of a stormy Atlantic.
But this is the main view for which people come to Assateague: the ponies.