Have you ever happened upon the dawn of time? Have you ever felt like the world began overnight? Have you ever tried to squint away the rest of humanity and imagine yourself the first person to stand at the edge of the ocean, with all life foaming at your feet? I’ve had moments like that. How about you?
I once awoke to the squawking of gulls, hundreds of them, on Cape Hatteras, and ran down to the beach to investigate the cause of the racket. It was minutes after sunrise, and a horde of bluefish had invaded the surf, attacking a school of Atlantic herring, chasing them into the shore. The tide had started to recede, stranding dozens of the herring in large, shallow puddles on the beach. My dog, Rosie, hovered over one of the puddles, suddenly snapped up one of the silvery herring and ran off with it in her mouth. In the surf, the slaughter continued for another hour: Hundreds, perhaps thousands of bluefish feeding frantically on frantic herring, and the surf smelled of shredded fish.
Another man might have instantly run to fetch his surf rod — you can catch a bluefish in its feeding madness with a bare hook, after all — but I stayed and watched a while. It was the rare blitz of bluefish the local anglers had told us about. I had never seen one. I tried to imagine the first Hatteras native to come upon this sight, way back when, at the dawn of everything. I imagined him running off to alert his tribe, then giving thanks for the feast that had come crashing ashore.