[Recently, I was fortunate to live for a week within the power of the tides and fogs, and even now I remain haunted by a week where all was movement and change.]
Slip off the twisty coastal road in Maine and you will be heading for the sea. Your excitement is mounting. It is the distant tolling of a bell which is drawing you through the dim light of a narrow lane which is surrounded by a magical fog forest. Now you are walking through a small rain; the heavy air is dense with the smell of spruces and balsams. But look further.
Fog is a cloud that touches the ground. Here, so close to the ocean, at any time it could be wisps travelling, or a blanket. In spite of nearby harsh conditions, the lush growth thrives because it is blessed by the cool moisture and mineral rich sea vapor.
Glance down at the edge of this lane to see bunchberry and wild cranberry crowding in. (How small colors come alive on this foggy day.) Set just a bit further back in the forest are the handsome spears of the cinnamon fern.
This coastal fog forest is dense with spruces and firs and birch which thrive in the cool, moist air. Here the hermit thrush sings all day long. But most of all, this strange place is a land of abundant lichens and blanketing mosses, absorbing and retaining the nutrient-rich moisture, conspiring with the rich decay of the surrounding forest.
However, you will see that, although built on death and decay, this also is a nursery where taller trees, knocked over by gales, create a shelter for infant trees. Giant glacial erratic boulders also give shelter. Withstanding Atlantic storms, tree roots sprawl like claws.
And it is here that seedling spruces nestle in mosses. Actually, you might almost call this a mossy forest. The heavy air is pungent, a life-giving smell you may dream of later.
As your steps quicken, called by the sea, all the same you can’t help being aware that this strange land, glowing with vivid greens, softened by the ever-changing mists, is a place of vital life. If at first this landscape feels stark, as you walk you hear that this is the realm of coniferous forest birds such as the golden-crowned kinglet, and the blackburnian warbler. You will surely catch a glimpse of the lilting canary-yellow goldfinches.
Before you see them you hear them, the languid, incoming waves which are curling around the immense, sea-worn boulders of the shore. Finally, the sky opens to reveal a dream country of dead low tide, where sea birds pass up and down the bay, scouring newly revealed tide pools. And you realize there is nowhere else in the world you’d rather be.