The Beach at Herring Cove
I remember walking out on to the beach at Herring Cove early in the morning. Not many people would be up yet at the provincial park campground so that was the best time to be there on a September day. It is quiet in the morning. The surf is low, the wind is calm, and the sun sits just above the far horizon. Somewhere a couple of gulls are sharing the morning news but even that sound is somewhat muffled and soon carried off and away.
After passing across the wooden footbridge which spans a small stream, I step out on to the rise above the beach. Herring Cove is a gently curving body of water that is along the eastern side of Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada. It is a crescent shaped shoreline stretching from one headland in the north around to a headland to the south. This beach does not consist primarily of sand as one would normally think of a beach. It is, rather, full of beautiful, smooth stones of all shapes, sizes and colors. It is sometimes known as a “popple” beach. I have never been a sand beach person who likes to pull out her beach chair and sun umbrella, kick off her flip flops, remove her beach wrap and stretch out in her swim suit on the chair, now and then walking to the water for a quick dip and then returning to lie in the sun, slathered in sunscreen, to read her book. No, that is not for me.
I prefer this popple beach where I walk with my head down, eyes searching through the stones for just the right one. What makes it the “right one “? I am not sure what it may be that causes me to choose one stone over another. Perhaps it depends on the morning light; or the mood I am in; or a particular coloring in the stone; an unusual shape perhaps? There are times when I have gone down to the beach and told myself that I have more than enough stones in my collection at home and do not need anymore. But then I see one that is unique and like no others I have, thus I am compelled to take it home. Or the time when we were visiting Herring Cove and I told myself, “No more stones!” As I walked, however, a dear friend of mine came into my thoughts. She had had a stroke a couple of years before which had affected her ability to walk. I knew she and her husband had visited Herring Cove in the past and she loved the stones as much as I did. There I was standing on the beach, looking at the beautiful sweep of the crescent shoreline, telling myself not to pick up any stones, and then I looked down. There at my feet was a lovely, smooth, speckled granite, heart-shaped stone. It was meant for my friend and I had no choice but to pick it up, place it in my pocket, and take it home to her.
I still have my collection of stones from Campobello Island laid out in an arrangement on a glass platter in my living room. And that beautiful stone-covered beach at Herring Cove comes to mind when I see those stones. I don’t know if or when we will ever return to the island since we now live in Virginia rather than our former home in Maine, but I have the stones and they hold the memories. The stones are quite willing to share those memories and stir my heart when I pick one up and hold it in my hand.