today, gulf of maine.

Bouncing down the wooded gravel lane I steer around an expanding brown puddle. Around the bend the greenhouses and chickens come into view. Parked, with the engine off, rain drops beat on the roof and cover the windshield. I get out and cross the yard. The farmer I am here to start working for is over by the door. He has something in his arms.

-Know how to shoot a gun?

-Yeah. What at?

-We got a fox massacring the chickens.

This month nearly 25 birds were foxed. We keep talking about the fox as we step through the greenhouse’s wide plywood doors. The gun is rested against a wall and we quickly start looking over baby tomatoes that need to be transplanted. The radio may be calling for windchills in the low 20’s tonight but a massive wood furnace gives these little green plants an early start at spring.


mid april, lake michigan.

The wind is throwing sand into our faces.  Somewhere over the dunes ahead of us there is a massive lake full of melted glaciers.  The same glaciers ground the continental shield into the fine sand that is exfoliating our chilled cheeks.

We stumble up and run down another dune.  Then another.  Tree stumps and root masses lie scattered around the backside of the sand piles.

Another rise and the full force of the wind hits us–and there is lake Michigan stretching off over the horizon, rolling towards us in long white waves, pulling the dunes back in.


early april, delaware bay.

At home spring is coloring the air. You can see the lilacs with your eyes closed. With the full moon coming in a few hours and a big evening tide I decide to head to the bay. To see if any horseshoe crabs are looking to come ashore early in this unusually warm spring.

But there are no blossoms on the bay. The spartina in the meadow are still tan and dry. Only broken chunks of glass and brick add any color to the white sand and black mud of the flats. The cold water and wind off the bay maintain the seasons. As the tide comes at sunset there are no horseshoe crabs, at least not living. Several dry shells lie in reeds, lifeless.

Out in the marsh, between a twisting tidal creek and the bayshore, an old shack leans hard into mud. As the sun drops into the bay over the Delaware coast orange light shines through a hole where the stove pipe exits a wall. It lands on the shoulders of a redwing blackbird. The bay’s first blossom.


About banksofthebasin

Brett grew up in South Jersey, moved to the coast of Maine to study human ecology, and then spent a year traveling on rivers around the world—from the frozen arctic to the mangroves of south Asia. Before setting out on Banks of the Basin he baked bread in Pittsburgh and kayaked the beautiful rivers of central Appalachia.
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