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Q? Living..ln-JBetw.een From the Editor A few years ago, my wife and I spent two off-seasons living in a house on the edge of land and sea. It was the type of house all of us have dreamed of living in, not particularly large or impressive in its own right, but situated perfectly, peering out over a shadowed green lawn at the ocean. The upstairs bed, something larger than a king—two queens pushed together, I think—also faced the water so that you could spend an hour or so each afternoon pretending to read while watching the waves splash hard over this one crowned rock, white froth luminescent in the low light, water kicking up then sliding down the rock's back side in white rivulets. It sounds pastoral, and it was, but more than that it was dramatic. In winter you could barely push the front door open in the northeast wind. Stranded loggerhead turtles washed up on the beach, blazing white gannets speared the surf, coyotes roamed the bog behind the house, and one day while talking on the phone in the living room, I was interrupted by the sight of a breaching humpback whale. There was human drama, too. On the property to our west—a great bluff that I had walked out to since childhood—a trophy home was being built, so that I could see everything I loved—the bluff—and everything I loathed—the enormous house—just by looking out my kitchen window . And it was cheap. We made rent by dog-sitting and paying as close as we could come to five hundred a month, with the catch being that we needed to be able to accept impermanence, knowing we would be kicked out each summer, when the place rented for five times that per week. There was always a sense of temporary encampment, of moving in or moving out, but that fit the overall mood. The house on the edge was not a place for certainty, and sure enough it was sold for a truckload of money at the end of our second year. Settling there was never an option for us, and the time since has been one of movement and migration. IX EcoTONE: reimagining place Even as I packed I knew I'd never come close to living in as spectacular a place again. But I also knew I was taking something with me as I left. What I've held onto is a belief that first grew while walking out from that house to the bluff. As much as I loved the house, it was the bluff, or more particularly the rocky beach between the bluff and the sea, that made living there more than merely quaint. At the bluff you could find another kind of living-in-between, another sort of impermanent life, another testing ground. The rocky beach below the bluff went through at least four daily mood changes, never quite sure whether to be water or land, and on the bluff's peak woodland plants and trees grew within a few feet of the seaside vegetation, sometimes overlapping . It was as if the bluff existed in Keats's state of "negative capability ," that "capability of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason __" The world of the bluff, always in motion, insisted on openness. The bluff was not a neat place. It changed constantly, changed with each tide. "Ecologists speak of an 'edge effect,'" writes the biologist Alan Poole, "the concentration of animal life that occurs where two different habitats abut." The bluff held several such edges, or ecotones, borderlands between ecosystems where life was always in flux. The land spilled over with varied life—seals, eiders, crabs, fish, foxes, crows, hawks, coyotes—but ecotones are places of death as well as life. Those rocks were great collectors of whatever the tide brought in, and often enough what it brought in was corpses. During the years we lived in the edge house, I found the cadavers of a young coyote, sea turtles— both loggerheads and Kemp's Ridleys—many seals, a beautiful gannet with a wingspan...


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