"Down the Coast to Assateague"
So it is that traveling along the shore in winter by yourself you are apt to discover your capacity for loneliness. If at the same time you discover that your interest in the nature of the outer world is undiminished you can account yourself fortunate. That was the answer that came to me to the question of whether the succession of plants and birds, the physics of wave-motion and the varying structure of beaches were important; if you thought they were, you had much to be grateful for -- and whether you did was likely to depend (to be realistic about this) upon whether you had associates who thought they were and would willingly listen to what you had to report about them. In that, I knew myself to be especially well off.
But of course the question could be pressed further. Suppose the circumstances of the wintry shore were carried to their logical extreme and one found oneself at sea in a sinking ship beyond hope of rescue. Would one then have an eye for the processes of the universe? I should have liked to think that, failing an ability to execute in the time remaining a stanza of verse that would epitomize man's experience on earth, I had it in me to absorb myself during that final ordeal in taking notes on the performance of such birds as might be present (shearwaters would be a possibility even in mid-Atlantic) with a view to plugging them in a bottle addressed to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution before the waters closed over me. My recognition that I should be as little up to the one as capable of the other did not perturb me as it should have done for the simple reason that I had grounds for more immediate concern. I fell far short at the best of times of such reasonable standards as those set by Sir Thomas Browne. My observation of nature was desultory in the extreme. I had engaged in precious little "judicious enquiry" into God's acts or "deliberate research into his creatures." I had not been one of those -- much as I applauded them -- who in doing so "highly magnifie him." We are not all equal to exacting disciplines. I was one of "those vulgar heads that rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire his workes." Still, it could be argued that admiring his works with a gross rusticity is preferable to not admiring them at all. And I could testify that finding them admirable makes a difference in the state of mind of a traveler in the realm of the winter sea, even if it might not alone sustain him in the final pass -- since, as Sir Thomas points out, "the long habit of living indisposeth us for dying."