Muggy drops of humidity hang suspended midair and almost visible.
The pungency of the marsh is pervasive, strong. It sticks to the skin. Rich with the cycles of life and death, the marsh is a sensory reminder of the changes wrought by time’s tides.
A blue heron flies low and with grace across a dish-calm creek.
Something else drifts by on the slow, saturated breeze. Something wistful. Something that smells like bulkhead creosote, tastes like warm beer from 10 oz. cans, and looks like cutoff denim shorts and bright cotton tank tops that provide free advertising to bars, beverages, and billionaire rock bands.
Feels like a dock splinter, like nostalgia.
Sounds like a summer squall. Electricity cracks the sky. The downriver horizon darkens with much more threat than warning. Regret storms in through unbattened hatches. A few minutes of intense natural fury and the tempest blows north, up the Chesapeake Bay.
Local tomatoes: heirloom red and sweetheart firm. Pale yellow sweet corn, cooked in the husk, swathed in butter. Blue crabs caught on trotlines, steamed and spiced to perfection, giving the best of themselves only to those who know their secrets.
Soft crabs fried. Served on white bread or Saltines as God intended.
Carnivals, county fairs, and the ghost-march of long extinguished firemen’s parades.
Lightning bugs announce the dusk.
Grand explosions of red, and white, and blue, and gold, and silver thunder in the night sky while the marsh lies silent below the blasts of rockets, solid looking in the dark distance and surrounded by shallow, murky waterways and paved-over wetlands.
From the intended solemnity of Memorial Day, through the patriotic celebration of the Fourth of July, to Labor Day, when we honor those who work to make this country work, there’s nothing like summer to remind an Eastern Shoreman how the marsh permeates his soul.