Monday, February 18, 2008

Cold, Sand, and Flashlight

Barnacles and sea slugs, anemones and shrimpy bugs...okay, so I'm not a poet. Still, these animals are on my mind! We were nose-to-er...who-knows-what with them last night. Gary found a blurb in the newspaper promoting the WSU Beach Watchers starlight beach walk in the extreme minus tide. It's not typical for Gary to pick up on those types of things, but this time he did with great enthusiasm, asking everyone he could whether they'd want to go along. We only got one taker, Richard, a friend of Tim's.
Richard was admonished by his mom not to go swimming...she said he would if she didn't tell him not to. He was wearing the full-height rubber boots, and had his head lamp so he wouldn't have to carry a flashlight. Ready to go! I promised her we'd keep track of him and not let him get washed away.
It didn't take long after we'd arrived for the boys to head off apart from us. We walked in the wrong direction looking for them, so when we turned around and finally found them I was a bit perplexed to see them in water up to near the top of their boots. It took three times telling them to get out of the water for them to get all the way back onto the sand, hesitating like toddlers would because they were loathe to leave it. I could envision them losing their footing and falling in, and me being responsible for the resultant hypothermia. After a thorough explanation of why they needed to stay with us, we continued and saw everything we could find of what the sand and pilings were willing to share with us.
There wasn't as much sea life as we might have hoped, since it's not a beach full of very big rocks, but we looked at those things we could find and talked with the volunteers who were so happy to share what they knew of the animals. I told them the things I remembered seeing at Coos Bay when I was at a camp there, the pycnopodia and the gumboot chiton (I always think of footballs when I see them), little octopi and ceramic crabs. When I told them that some of the students at our camp had been talked into putting their tongues on the anemones, they laughed. I guess they knew the resultant numb tongue; they were too kind to ask any of us to do the same. (That was one of the few occasions in my youth that I exhibited any wisdom, was in not trying that little experiment. I guess I've always valued my power of speech a little more than I might.)
Strangely enough, there were anemones that appeared to be fastened not to rock, but to the dense sand deposits in the area, among the sea grasses that grew there. All of these anemones were tiny, whereas on the rocks they grow to quite a bit larger. I think it shows that this sand was an unfavorable place for an animal intended for the solid grounding that only a rock can give--either the stress of being less-fastened kept them small, or after reaching a certain size, I imagine they might be too big for the sand to hold them any longer, and they would wash away before maturity. It was the only place that my mind could imagine to connect with life in Christ. We are intended for life on the Rock. The shifting sands will keep us small and we will not withstand the storms, but lose our footing and be washed away.
Even though the fauna of the area was limited, I think the boys enjoyed it. Perhaps they would have been happy with the outing even if we hadn't found anything; just getting out and poking around in a cold, messy area by flashlight in the dark of the night was right up their alley. Seeing a few critters that weren't native to their neighborhood habitats was just a bonus. Still, next time (and I hope there will be a next time soon, it was very much fun), I think we will go to Mukilteo Beach where the sea life is said to be much more plentiful.
I wish we were more prone to get away and do these things! Viewing more aspects of God's creation brings a greater awareness and appreciation of His wonderful works. Besides the fact that it's just plain fun.

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