Palm Sunday started with the cries of a pair of courting osprey wheeling and diving overhead.

Our species was approaching the peak of the coronavirus pandemic but here was nature heralding a new day.

Tide pools glittered with the golden shards of the rising sun. But last night’s winds had rolled the dunes 30 feet back, burying the boardwalk under 4 feet of new sand.

The storm had also flattened the beach, which was gullied and strewn with piles of straw lifted off the neighboring marshes by the night’s 10-foot high tides. 

But the beach is now tranquil and the tide pools reflect a more cobalt sky, noticeably lacking the contrails of aircraft thundering toward the now-empty Logan Airport.

A smattering of people walk along the shore in quiet awe of nature’s power to rework the land during a single storm.

It is shocking to look across the sound and see no one walking on Sandy Point. Massachusetts has closed its parks and beaches to ensure social distancing and the storm had undermined another stalwart house on nearby Plum Island.

Waves had kicked surf clams out of the offshore sediments and strewn them on the shore where seagulls were trying to figure out how to fly off with such heavy larder.

I was happy to relieve them of their burden. I would add it to my stash of oysters and mussels untouched by human hands. This was my new coronavirus shopping.

Gradually, I noticed the quiet whistles of a pair of piping plover, exuberant they had survived the ravages of last night’s storm. They picked through the piles of wrackline and explored the new runnels gullying the beach as their ancestors had done for hundreds of thousands of years. 

Suddenly, it dawned on me. It is now these fragile piping plover that seem so resilient and well-adapted to their environment.

And it is we humans who seem so ill-equipped to survive this viral storm. Are we the more endangered species? 

Perhaps, if we learn how to mend our ways and live more lightly on the land, we, too, may survive for another 10,000 years. Is that the lesson that COVID-19 and nature were trying to tell us on this beautiful Palm Sunday spring day?

Bill Sargent is a North Shore science writer and author. 

Recommended for you