Rainy-day beach combing

28 10 2007

      We got up this morning and went to the beach.  The cloud cover was low- a gray sea, a gray sky, and the gray sand.  The wind lifted the spray off the waves and blew bits of foam across the sand.  There must have been heavy weather off the coast, because there were mounds of reddish-green seaweed heaped on the shore.  It was kind of squeaky and soft under our feet, the little bladders breaking and rolling away like tiny hollow rubber balls.
       Donal found two mermaid’s purses and delivered a lecture on the different shapes of egg cases laid by different sharks.  Neal leaned over and asked me how he knew, and I had no idea.  Sometimes my son suprises me.  Brenna dug her toes in the sand and spun in circles like an ice dancer, her hair whipping and flying like a banner in the wind. 
       There were surfers out, their boards peeping above the waves like large triangular shark fins.  The pelicans were out with the surfers, and two men with shrimp nets walked by us headed for the inlet.  One of the nets was lavender with purple weights.  All the colors were vivid against the gray world.  I found myself transfixed by the color of a tiny peach clam shell lying on the sand.  I found two beautiful scallops, one the burgandy color of the seaweed, and Brenna found another egg case. 
        Michael was wearing a yellow plastic rain coat and jeans with the cuffs turned up almost to his knees.  He ran in and out of the waves, which chased him hissing and washing across each other.  I couldn’t figure which way the waves were running up the shore.  They kept crossing, probably driven one way by the current and another by the wind.  The patterns in the sand were the strangest I had ever seen, like abstract wall-paper, a symphony of dark and light gray scallops.  Neal saw me studying the pattern and commented, “God must have wanted to do some painting this morning.”
       One of the fishermen pulled in a hook full of seaweed and commented ruefully, “They’re really running out there this morning.”   A woman crossed my path and greeted me with the words, “My pockets are so full of shells I think they’re going to burst.”  I wasn’t sure how to respond to this, so I smiled.  Another fisherman walked barefoot up to his tackle with a silver fish flipping and twisting on his hook.  Pat wanted to help him pull it off, but I distracted him.
       On the way back past the Shell Island Resort Patrick chased the little sand pipers.  They run so fast you can hardly see their legs, and I laughed at how much Patrick looked like them.  His short little chubby legs were moving almost as fast as the birds’.  When he tired, he ran up to Neal and plopped down in the sand laughing.  The soles of his feet were very pink from running in the cool water, and the white sand crusted them like sugar.  I could have eaten him up.
      Michael walked after his daddy trying to stomp out all of his footprints.  He looked so small and frail in his yellow raincoat.  Was Donal every that small and fragile-looking?  I don’t think so.  Everything was so beautiful- the sky and the green, green sea grass on the dunes and the little birds swinging into the wind- that I couldn’t help singing.  I wandered down the beach singing, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is shifting sand…”
       Donal and Brenna walked fifty feet before us, their heads together comparing shells and wandering over the tideline debris trash picking.  When we reached the barrel in front of the resort, everyone had to empty their pockets.  Neal even found a half-buried bath mat!  He laid it on the edge of the barrel, saying, “This might belong to the resort, so I’ll lay it here where they might see it and come for it,” which is a very Nealish thing to say.  He could never believe that someone might throw out a “perfectly good” bathmat that has only been washing up and down the beach for about a month!  Some of the trash we found had been out longer than that.  We picked up several plastic bottles full of ocean water and covered with small shellfish.  Barnacles?  Or perhaps some kind of mussel, with brownish shells that closed like praying hands and little red tongue-like things that were sticking out in their death posture.  I wonder how many of them are going to show up in my washing machine from pocket treasure troves?  I am amazed by all the things my family thinks are “too good to throw away.”
     The best find of the day were two mysterious spheres, perfectly round and somewhere between the size of a ping-pong ball and a tennis ball.  They seemed like wood, only not wood, and they had the little mussels clinging to them at one end, as if there were an opening there that we couldn’t find with our fingers.  Donal plans to saw one open.  We’re wondering if they might be seeds from some island palm washed up the Gulf Stream current to our beach.  What would grow from such things?  Almost anything.




3 responses

29 10 2007
Carolyn Mejia

i love to hear you describe stuff like this. i feel like i just got back from the beach.

29 10 2007
Linda Miller

What an eye to see so clearly and then the words to describe it for all of us. I’m so glad you had the time to make another visit to the bech. Should your hearts get lonely for that time you’ll be able to read back to your family, with such clarity, that they’ll think they’ve just visited.
Love you all so much.
Mom & Dad

29 10 2007

Beach combing used to be one of my favorite things to do when I moved here. It has been a long time since I have walked the beach. Thanks for reminding me what I am missing.
I am honored to see my blog in your blogroll. Thanks Angela.

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