Mill Hill to Tuna Tower and Back (Menemsha).

We took a ritual trip to the West this afternoon. Not to California or any such place, but to Menemsha,  which guidebooks and the like are fond of characterizing as a “quaint fishing village”. This time of year, Menemsha is indeed high up there in the quaint quotient category, but try visiting on a winter day, during a snowy northeasterly blow, or maybe worse, on a day when the NW air is blasting a gale down from Canada. On a day like that you’ll be much to cold to even think about quaint.

But I digress.

On a July evening, a drive to Menemsha is a wonderful expedition. Try to time your arrival so the daytime beachgoers have left and the sunset worshippers have not yet arrived. Then you are probably going to find a place to park. Come at the wrong time, and you won’t find a spot anywhere.

At Menemsha, one ritual you’ll see is people coming to watch the sunset. When the sun sets, over the water to the west, almost everyone applauds or cheers.

Yay sunset!

I’ve heard that people in Key West, Florida, also applaud the sunset.

Life can be quirky here. There are weird quirks, and there are nice quirks. Good quirks. On the top of the bulletin board at the Menemsha store is a small cardboard sign. A helpful and kind sign.


Such a little thing to do, but so considerate. It takes almost no effort and but trifling expense to offer courtesies like this. Maybe you can do something like this somewhere in your life.

We have come to Menemsha for a small ritual of our own. The ritual of supper at The Galley, a summer-only eatery, where our meal is usually fish sandwiches and a frappe. Such was our meal this evening. At The Galley, you place your order from outside, in the front of the building. After you pay for your food, you get a slip with a number on it. You can then go around back, to wait for your number to be called, and to eat your food on the back porch.

The porch is perched at the edge of the harbor. There is nowhere else on the planet where you’ll get a better view of the back of Lynn Murphy’s fishing shack.

We look down to the harbor, and just below us, in the shallows at water’s edge, swims an animal. This particular and remarkable animal carries remnant consciousness from almost a half a billion years ago. The life of this creature could be said to be all ritual. Prescribed ritual. And all that ritual is imprinted in a twisty strand of proteins? Life is a miracle.

You want to see ritual? Just be at a full-moonlit beach in the spring, when thousands upon thousand of limulus come to meet, to greet, and to mate. They pile up, they stack up on each other like layers of shingles. Each female will lay fifteen to sixty thousand eggs or more. That’s a lot of eggs.

How many eggs in an annual laying on any given beach?

More than you or I can count.


Limulus. The horseshoe crab. These creatures first came into being before the flowering plants. They can regenerate lost limbs, a trick few other critters can manage.  The tail has light-sensing organs along its length. Ever see sandpipers “stitching” along a sand flat? They’re likely looking for horseshoe crab eggs. Horseshoe crab eggs sustain millions of birds, particularly during their migrations. So far, there have been enough eggs left over each year to continue the life cycle of both the sandpipers and of this astonishing animal. A half-billion years already?
We should live so long.
This critter is a living fossil!

Near the living fossil, on the little bit of beach next to where we eat our supper, were a pair of male juvenile Homo sapiens. They’ve only been around a paltry few million years.


Young Homo sapiens engaging in the “throwstones” ritual. Menemsha is heaven for the young. If you hang around Menemsha all summer, you’re known as a “wharf rat”. Being a Wharf Rat is an honorable occupation. You’ll learn things no school will ever teach you

Our meal over, we take a customary stroll to the end of the dock. We pass one of the shacks next to the channel to Menemsha Pond, where the interface of light and shadow make a lightning bolt zigzag that streaks across saltgray cedar shingles.


Yellow lichen flourishes on the flatness of the asphalt roofing.


Farther along down the dock, a boy has climbed about four stories up to the top of a giant sport fishing boat. He’s on top of the world. An older man, let’s say it’s his grandfather, is messing around with a fishing rod, down on the main deck.


The rig this kid’s on is called a “tuna tower”. Logical, I guess. Alliterative.

The wife noticed, on the way back to the car, that the inside of a dockside dinghy was about the same color as the flowers in the foreground. She notices things. The husband took a picture.


The pretty pink flower is russian knapweed, an infamous invasive. Not so bad a problem here in the east, but it’s a real bane in ranch and pastureland out west.

Our ritual visit over, we headed home. On the way we stopped to drop off some papers at a friend’s house. Walking back to the car we noticed a doe and fawn out in the field.


What we saw in the field. She looked over at us, but we stood still. We got ignored after that.

The deer were were ambling. The fawn tailflicked once, but that was the quickest motion we saw from them.


It was too hot to do anything but amble. The deer are a striking russet brown at this time of year.

The sound of a motor in the distance?


A red biplane, flying low, but not too low, over the beach, about a half mile distant.

That’s a ride that would be nice to take sometime, on a sunny summer day.

2 responses to “Mill Hill to Tuna Tower and Back (Menemsha).

  1. despite the thousands, I’ve only ever found one limulus nest. But that one, and observing the developing eggs for a week or so, was definitely worth it to me and my science school class. Long Life, Limulus!!

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