Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ceaseless Wonders of the Beach

If you've ever had the privilege of repeat visits to the same shoreline, you've undoubtedly marveled at something unexpected.

The ocean is constantly changing, and we encounter different conditions, different kingdoms of marine organisms. 

Over forty years of visits to Cherry Cove, Washington  we've been delighted to study the tidal creatures: barnacles' tongues waving in the water, a sand dollar colony where the red fuzzy discs are wedged together, occasional sightings of star fish, and sea lions. 

I've walked the same eight miles of Sunset Beach, NC for ten years and the rule holds true: keep your eyes open and you won't be disappointed. 

This year we saw the damage from Hurricane Bill, which cut slices off the edge of the dunes like a trimmed cake. The cross-section of the mounds stood naked and vulnerable. 

One morning I found a beautiful purple and pink closed sack.  I thought was a deflating balloon. It had a string so I picked it up. Then I saw two more of the mysterious objects along the high tide line. Their strings were wrapped around clumps of dried sea grasses.  I eliminated the balloon theory.

Talking to a naturalist I learned they were Portuguese Men of War. She said she wouldn't even touch them if they were dead. (Blessedly, I didn't manifest any of the possible nasty effect.) They didn't look big enough to be so poisonous. The delicate transparent blue body had a ridge of pink down the midline. It really was beautiful. 

 They  made news when it washed up in New Jersey this week. 

Another day, dozens of minute frogs were jumping across the sand. On their way to the beach? Hatched in the inner waterway? They were only about 1/4" long. No naturalist was around to explain them. 

Then there was this blob abut 8" long. It looked like grape play-dough. 

In a world full of concrete, steel, and hard surfaces, the beach calls to me at its soft union with the unfathomable ocean. For a few days a year I'm Jacques Cousteau, discovering gifts from the sea. 

Where do you feel that awe and wonder?  

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