Monday, September 17, 2012

Low Tide

The other day on a Pacific Northwest island we walked from County Beach to Beach 1 at low tide. The beach’s expanse of round gray rocks curved under a cliff topped with tall pines, their root balls hanging precariously over the beach. At the base of the cliff, smooth, white, massive tree trunks lay in haphazard piles. I don’t even want to imagine winds and waves violent enough to carry hundred-year-old trees across Puget Sound and deposit them at the base of that cliff.

Though I was hoping for an aerobically brisk walk on the beach, stubbly rocks rendered the walk a leisurely stroll. Just as well, I suppose; I didn’t want to twist an ankle. Walking slowly also enabled me to linger over beach life.

A rusty, moss-covered boat anchor stretched across the stubble. How long had it been since it anchored a boat? Whose boat? The person who had leaned a silver stepladder against the cliff?

Everywhere, live clams and barnacles clung to rocks. Were they sleeping until high tide brought them back to life like actors on a movie set waiting for the striped stick to clap the slate board announcing “Action”?

Amber-colored jellyfish had gotten beached near empty Dungeness crab shells. Who ate the crabmeat? Gulls? Waves gently licked rocks fifty or so feet from the cliff. White barnacles edging gray rocks under the shallowest water looked lacy in the dappled sunshine.

Finding a yo-yo on the beach was fun. It wasn't literally on the beach; rather, it hung from a driftwood log. Did someone tie it there? Had it floated in from a boat ("Yo-yo overboard!") and gotten caught? What does it do during high tides?

We kept finding driftwood with curves and hollows perfect for planting ferns or flowers in our garden at home. Transportation logistics aside, we could not bring ourselves to domesticate this driftwood. It was more at home at low tide in the wild Pacific Northwest than it would be in a fern garden in the Midwest.

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