Sometimes a city feels like too much. Tired with the pace of ego and endless distractions, we long for an island. There are many around Boston to choose from, and Plum may not be the most spectacular, but its landscapes are characterized by austere beauty, which some of its sweet and more sophisticated friends seem to lack. And it’s a real birds’ kingdom.
For many people, this is an escape from civilization. Located just an hour from the corporate clocks of Downtown Boston, on the north-eastern coast of Massachusetts (north of Cape Ann), it welcomed us with a misty, rain-soaked weather. The kind that soothes the souls in the way that rivers polish their stones. We were in the middle of a vast space, the air had a salty ocean smell, and small flowers were popping up with spots of color from the grassy green meadows. Sandy roads (asphalt ended some time ago) drew patterns along the river banks. The birds were circling over us.
Plum Island owes its name to wild plums that grow on the sand dunes. The island is only 11 miles long and is best known for the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, one of the "hottest spots" for American ornithologists. We were told that there are 365 different species of wild birds that you could spot here. Our favorites included piping plovers, tiny birds the color of sand. They move with funny jumps, and produce a characteristic soft squeaking whistle. Due to global warming, water turbines, drilling platforms, human recreation, and the activity of development companies, there are fewer and fewer piping plover nestlings on the East Coast.
After a few hours of wandering among the marshy meadows and bird watching, we eased and relaxed so that our street-smarts dropped almost to zero. Saturated with melancholy, but smiling, we returned home in the rain, which had caught us in the end on the southernmost tip of the island, on a blue beach covered with fog.