Tuesday, June 17, 2008

That Summer Feeling

We went up island for an extended Long Weekend last week. My parents own a house on the east coast, in a protected little bay where the swimming is good and the summers are hot. I've gone to this beach every year for as long as I can remember. My grandparents found it when they were heading to another place, missed a ferry and had to spend the night here. They ended up buying a little cottage and moving in, where they lived until they both died, many years later. My early memories of this place are of old ladies in bathing caps and black swim suits, drinking gin and smoking Black Cat cigarettes; of wooden outhouses that I dreaded in the middle of the night; of smoking hollow blades of grass with my friends in the beach dunes, certain we were beyond cool; and finally, of being able to wander and wander and wander, free from parents and school and city streets.

It's perfect for kids: long stretches of warm sand, lots of sand dollars, crabs, moon snails, bullheads, eagles, kingfishers, and ospreys, and a wild, rocky reef that stretches way out into the ocean. The reef is where you can see most of the strange and exotic ocean life around these parts. And by strange and exotic I mean things like moon snails and oysters and rock crabs and multi-coloured seaweeds. This picture shows an eagle perched on a rock out on that reef. He sat there for a while, watching me approach, then floated up into the sky right after I took this shot.

A moon snail shell. Sans moon snail. If you've never seen one of these creatures, imagine a large, squooshy gray mass slid inside this shell, with a giant paw emerging from the opening. I suppose I could have said "imagine a large gray slug" but that would leave out the lovely weirdness that is a moon snail.

A moon snail collar. Technically I suppose it's comprised of moon snail goo, conjured up from an overnight rest, but I've never researched it. I don't really want to know, to be honest. Imagine if I were to find out that it's something from their death throes, as a seal consumes them, or a war wound from a surly crab (lost on the Crab Highway). No, I'd rather think of this as bits of leftover blankie from a Moon Snail Snooze.

Here is a teenie tiny bullhead Dominic caught; he waded around after a little mass of them as they basked in the warm shallows as we walked the sand. He scooped it into his moon snail shell, and proudly rushed over to show everyone his prize. You can see it if you look very carefully at the sand in the bottom of the shell. The bullhead is sitting very still and quiet (and yes, I do realize that everything sits still and quiet in a photograph). If you need further visual assistance, click on the picture and it will give you an enlarged view.

Sibling Rivalry Alert: almost one second after Dominic caught his little bullhead, FDPG plunged into the water and grabbed her own little bullhead, with her bare hands. This kid has been watching too much Survivor, methinks.

Can you see his bullish head peeping over the tips of her fingers? If not, click on the picture and you'll see a larger version.

A starfish. People keep telling me they are now called Sea Stars, but I like the word starfish, so I'm stickin' to it. (should have prefaced that with an Old and Crotchety Alert, I guess)

Finally, a razor clam shell. FDPG likes to call them fairy wings for crabbies. I like the colour, because it's so ephemeral. One minute it's glistening wetly in the sun, next it's dry and dull, all the magic having fled.


Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

Awesome experiences and awesome finds!

I lived in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands for a year each as a child and I LOVED this kind of exploration - your children will learn so much from all this!

Wish I was there! :-)

Becky said...

I showed the pics to the kids, and we're wondering if the starfish (er, sea star) is really as purple as it looks in the photo. It looks like a lovely day!

Kate said...

Good times! Reminds me that it's time to start packing for Savary. No sun in Vancouver, but hoping for some there.

sheila said...

Ladybug: that sounds idyllic. I'd love to visit those places. I'm sure my kids would too, of course, so maybe one day.

Becky: It is! Can you believe it? No trick lens either! Those clever starfish, er sea stars. I wonder if they are confused by this name change, or if they call themselves something like "Zorgon, Scourge of the Seabed" (a la Gary Larson & Far Side).

Kate Kate Kate, I've told you, you should move here. It's ALWAYS sunnier here than where you are. In fact, the sun is shining right this minute! And no, Max didn't tell me to say that. Max says hi! to J by the by.

Mrs. G. said...

I have never seen a purple starfish...amazing! You are so lucky to have such a beautiful place to go.

Mrs. G. said...

I have never seen a purple starfish...amazing! You are so lucky to have such a beautiful place to go.

Cami said...

I love your memories you shared of when you were a kid. I can just picture the old ladies with their bathing caps on! I still like "star fish" better, too - that color is amazing, it looks like someone left a toy behind! It's fun to see another part of the country through other people's blogs :)

sheila said...

Thanks Mrs. G (every time I see your name now I think of you at the massage studio). It is a pretty nice place.

Thanks, Cami. I loved hanging out with all those old ladies. They were SUCH characters. It was fun going from house to house, eating Peak Freans and watching them smoke and swear and drink and be outrageous. They were very inspirational now that I think of it!

this is my patch said...

I really wish we could pick up these sorts of creatures and shells along our beach. You'd be lucky to find a cuttle fish skeleton! The kids must love spending time there, and so must you. A beach paradise as far as I can see. x