March Slice of Life No. 15.
We arrived late afternoon for our annual end-of-summer beach week.
We unpacked. [Funny how two words represent over an hour’s worth of work.] Then we eagerly headed to the path that would take us through waving sea grasses, over a small dune, and onto the beach. We were so ready for our first surf walk of this long awaited September week.
My husband started across the dry sand toward the surf. But I stood for a few moments on the crown of the dune, drinking in the expanse of sand and surf. A sea breeze stirred. There was a hint of something on the edge of that breeze. It was not the normal. I wrinkled my nose and deliberately sniffed the air. Fishy? Or was it just salty? More like the Atlantic than my beloved Pacific. Strange…. but it was just a whiff. So, I pulled off my flip-flops and with my eyes on the crashing, foaming surf, I hurried to catch up to my husband.
We had crossed the expanse of sand almost to the tide line from the last high tide before we noticed them. So many of them. More than we had ever seen. We slowed down and I put my flip-flops back on. We started counting, but stopped. There were hundreds of them. Now the smell was strong. It was not pleasant. Strangely, though it was unpleasant, I found myself savoring it just a wee bit because it filled me with so many wonderful childhood memories, memories of summer vacations at the sea, of fishing docks on Hatteras.
We usually don’t talk much on our surf walks. We both enjoy the roar of the waves. But on this walk, I was full of questions.
“What do you think happened to all of them?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was there a storm yesterday?
“What would eat so many?”
“Where are the seagulls? Why aren’t they at this feast?” We had only seen a couple along with a few black ravens.
“Oh! Look! There aren’t any claws. Just shells.” I kick a few of exoskeletons over and bent closer to examine them. Then I had to hurry to catch up to my husband.
“Do they molt?”
“They must molt. But why have we never seen this before?”
“Do you think there will be more tonight or tomorrow?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think they are just right here, or do they cover the WHOLE beach?”
“I can’t see any further than you can.”
I began speculating about our week, wondering if we’d enjoy the beach as much as usual, thinking about how we might need to clear a spot in the morning so the grandkids could build sand castles.
“Do you think they’ll rake the sand during the night? When I was a kid some of our New Jersey beaches were raked during the night.”
“I doubt it. Maybe high tide tonight will clean it.”
With that idea, I began checking tide tables on my phone. When would high tide occur? How high would it be? Would it be higher than the last one so it could wash all the shells back out to sea?
I was so full of wondering.
Back at the beach house, I found answers here, here, and here. In short, my thinking was confirmed. Crabs had molted by the hundreds! [I found the process of their molting to be extremely fascinating.]
The grandkids arrived and unpacked. It was dark. Too late for them to go to beach. We said nothing.
Early the next morning, before the grandkids were awake, we went for a surf walk. I shivered in the lingering night cold as we crested the dune. Our giant shadows seemed to stretch to the surf. The air was fresh, not a hint of fishy. The sand was pristine, only a few shells remained along the water mark of the last high tide. It was as if it had never happened.
I was glad the beach was clean but sad that my grandkids had missed seeing the crab cast-offs.
From my Beach Album
The beach path, looking west to the ocean. It is hard to tell where ocean ends and sky begins,
The beach path, looking east toward the houses along The Promenade
My husband walking ahead on the sand. I snapped the picture from the top of the small dune.
Crab exoskeletons washed ashore at Seaside during molting season.
(I did not take this photo: source)
The top of the dune at the beginning of our morning walk.
I love the September color of the sea grass in the early morning sunlight.
Our giant morning shadows.
I laugh every time I look at this pic.
Walking back to the beach house (house on the right)
after a very long morning walk along the surf.
The sand has been “swept clean.”
That’s Tillamook Head, a promontory that rises about 1,200 ft above sea level.
It is forested with Sitka Spruce. It is the location of Ecola State Park,
the place where one of the scenes in The Goonies,
a Steven Spielberg story, was filmed.
I never tire of this view!
For FUN: Clamming and crabbing on Oregon coast.
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Beautiful pictures (I especially love the long shadows picture!) and an interesting story. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 ~JudyK
What a fun piece to read. I love your adventure and all the questions. I wish I was there to see this event.
This is a great slice. I saw some contrasts in the unpleasant smell and the serenity of the setting shared so well. I kept thinking about the memories you are creating for your Grand children and how they, like you, they will one day narrate these experiences, perhaps sharing the smells of the beach too and the company of grandparents.
I didn’t know this about crabs. That must have been some sight to see. I can envision a great picture book about this.
Wow! I loved thie piece and your accompanying pictures, too.
Ah, thanks so much, Julie. So glad you visited me today.
A beautifully described mystery! We never stop discovering new things… what a lovely spot, you are very privileged!
Ah! A mystery… I like that word for this slice. I do feel privileged to be able to spend time at the coast. The beach is my favorite place.
So love the picture you paint, the way your passion and curiosity shine through in every word. What a wonderful place to spend time with your grandkids.
The beach is the best place, even in stormy weather!
A fascinating post to read this morning! Oh, how I miss the beach; it’s been several years since we’ve been, and your writing stirred fond memories. Thanks for the photos, too; I especially like the panorama, and the tall shadows.
Oh, I don’t think I could go YEARS without visiting the beach. Glad you liked the pictures. 🙂
Both your curiosity and your ability to narrate your curiosity are a source of inspiration for me. I ask SO many questions, but you turn your questions into art. I love the structure of this slice – how you left me wondering about what on earth you were seeing, then I made a guess, next you confirmed my guess, and finally you provided me with information. I experienced what you experienced in miniature. I also love the pictures, especially the giant shadows & the grandkids.
Thank you. You nailed the two things I worked on during revision… to make you wonder what I saw (like I had wondered why I saw it) and to give you confirmation plus a bit of a learning slice if you didn’t already know about crabs.
Nature brings such surprises! What an interesting find. So glad you were able to solve the mystery of the empty shells. Love the internet!
Internet sure helps answer all my “wonderings” … and it’s in our pocket!
Love that you stretched it out not telling us right away, not explaining, so that we used our precious memories, our imagination
I’m so glad you noticed that crafting. I deliberately took out “crab” during my revision. 🙂
There’s nothing like time at the beach! I never knew that about crabs. Interesting!
The beach is first choice for me!
What a fascinating slice! You were so lucky to stumble on this scene and then we were so lucky you related it here. Your dialogue really captured your bubbling curiosity and …perhaps?…your husband’s desire for the routine quiet walk. Your pictures are stunning. The shadow picture is such fun and I can see why you smile every time you see it. I like how it transforms the two of you into something larger, and almost structural, together. You’ve made me yearn for the beach, especially because, as I write this, it’s snowing. Again.
You caught it; he doesn’t speculate on answers… 🙂 Not me, I am full of speculations when I’m wondering. I have an evening shadow picture of us at a baseball field. There has to be a long stretch of nothing to capture one. I think you are right; they are very symbolic.
I keep wanting to get to a beach. To walk barefoot along the shore sounds therapeutic to me. Beautiful pictures too!
Barefoot in the sand is definitely therapeutic! 🙂
Alice, crabbing is a favorite sport here on Long Island. While I have never done this, I do enjoy the taste of soft-shell crabs here on Long Island in the summer. Your beach pictures brought me right back to the summer months during this cold winter day. Your story was quite interesting. I can imagine the stench and yet would be wondering and questioning just like you did.
I like crab, too. We used to crab at low tide on a sand bar on the Outer Banks (NC), but I’ve not done it here in OR. My very favorite crab is dungeness crab. They are found only in the northwest waters. They average 8 inches across, up to almost 10 inches. When I’ve ordered them in a restaurant, one literally fills the dinner plate. Speaking of Long Island, did you see my post yesterday about Islip?