Agawam Notes


A man can live on coconuts if he needs to. We don’t have coconuts here. Because of our cooler climate and ready earth, we have potatoes. So when I saw some other nation’s currency—two coconuts—floating up against our sand, my dog and I sprang after them in the ebbing tide.

The beach was in rough shape, so we had to drop off where the once sloping access had been undermined. The “cliff” was black soft sand, the type you could drag with a magnet, were it a warmer day and had your mother brought one instead of pails and shovels for entertainment.

The coconuts were still in their coir and the size of rugby balls, although not as heavy, so I picked them up and headed west. If we had not had so many days of clouds, the sun would have been setting. There was a damp wind that seemed to come from all directions.

Plovers have taken all the best real estate. One has about a half acre fronting both the “cut” and the ocean, a coveted parcel that includes some of the last remaining dune banks, too. The plover’s secret is its endangered status. At no small expense we build them roped communities in our most sought after locales. Of course, the plover’s other secret is, they don’t ask for much; no hardened structures, no right to rebuild.

The pond was winding out to the ocean, but in a weak current. I counted five ospreys from there to the bridge. This area is very popular with gulls, which makes me worry for the plover. Great Black-backed gulls often make themselves comfortable on the island in the pond which once formed only when the pond was out. In recent years (and perhaps at the hand, or rather blade, of a mistaken or poorly planned dredging by bulldozer), the small island has become increasingly permanent. Cormorants with their Gothic wings held out to dry, share the space and leagues of sanderlings may fan along the edges, their white bodies mirroring as they outrun the gentle wash of fresh water moving to salt and sometimes visa versa.

Whether you starve, or from exhaustion die, because you cannot open the coconut, is not the creator’s problem. Luckily, I was not driven by survival so much as by a found exotic meal when I took a hatchet to the outer shell of the smaller coconut. Two friends, one with some expertise and one who claimed she’d never seen coconut trees at the beach, began to help.

We had no native grace with this and hacked sloppily in, gaining purchase on the inner seed’s position occasionally sending the nut skittering across the hard ground. Other times there was a thud as we pried and tore off a strip of the rugged fruit, growing impatient and hardly closer to the wanted core.

More steadily there arose a rotten fragrance that was not at all reminiscent of coconut. With our rude handling we plunged on to the middle, smearing the stench on our hands and clothes. Later, that smell would prove to be as resilient to washing as cow manure, but for the moment, we rebuffed what our nose told us, and believed, hopefully, that there would be edible fruit at the messy bottom.

So, when the first one failed, we deferred to the second, clearly larger, firmer nut and began our high hopes there anew.

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