cover image Notes from the Shore

Notes from the Shore

Jennifer Ackerman. Viking Books, $21.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84924-6

Like walking along an ocean beach with a knowledgeable, articulate friend, reading this personalized natural history is a restorative experience. Ackerman, a freelance science journalist, writes about what she learned of and from her surroundings during the three years she lived on Maryland's Atlantic coast near the southern tip of the Delaware Bay. With grace and avid particularity, she considers the history and characteristics of this landscape of marshes, mud flats and ``walking'' sand dunes, whose movement is orchestrated by the ocean current that parallels the shore. She observes the annual mating of horseshoe crabs (under a spring full moon) and watches for shore birds, from the tiny, semipalmated plover to the great, DDT-threatened osprey. At low tide, she probes the tidal flats for mud worms (tube, acorn, ribbon, plumed) and parses marsh grasses (sea lavender, cordgrass, saltwort and Spartina) at dawn. Against this landscape's rhythms, Ackerman revisits her own history--her mother's death, her father's illness and her hopes to have children of her own. (May)