At the Beach (Home school nature notebook)

Date: January 11, 1999 (Monday)

We go back to the water-main slash in the forest, today with our homeschool friends Kelly, TJ, Brady, Rebecca and their dog. Fresh deer and ‘coon prints litter the boggy ground. We took another look at the CMT and were once more filled with awe at the sense that we were being drawn into another place and time — at once far, remote; yet still with us, the blood of their Haida forebearers running warm and strong in the lithe young bodies of my children, Peter and Wendy.

We were reminded clearly of the strength and wildness of nature, as the dog, straining at its lash, pulled one of our party into soft mud. Within a minute or two, she was sunk to her knees in the murky, insistent stuff, and TJ and I both had to give her a good strong tup to pull her loose from its grip.

We spent quite a while on the inlet beach today. The kids were intrigued to turn over rocks close to the low tide line and watch dozens of tiny brown clams scuttle madly for shelter. Generally, each rock-bound colony would also contain one larger (about 3 inches across) crab along with the dozens of smaller ones. Mama and her brood? Some of the tiny ones would be palish green, but most were variegated shades of medium to dark brown. Under one rock a bunch of tiny round black shell creatures — or at least their shell remains — lay scattered empty around a largish very satisfied-looking crab, sitting there apparently licking his chops! There were also a variety of snails clinging to the undersides of the rocks, some of them clothed in riotous shades of oranges and yellows. Most of the snail shells were about an inch long.

We came upon a section of beach scattered with scallop shells, empty, caught under the edges of rocks or partly buried in the sand. The shells ranged from white through ones with bright colorful shadings of browns and yellows. We wondered if they had been washed up there, or if, more likely, someone had cast them away after removing the meat. It would be unusual to find scallop shells on this rocky, inlet beach; most scallops are washed up on the long, sandy beaches on the east side of the island, especially in the area around Tow Hill.

I found a set of 2-point deer antlers with the skull attached, washed very clean by the sea. I took them to my friend Adie, who will carve knife handles, musical instruments, or other useful items from them.

The children were quite horrified by the quantities of scrap metal, old car chassis, old plastic and metal piping, and so on, scattered along the beach — much of it having been there for many years, a reminder of a time when people weren’t really aware of how their actions might affect the ecology of this wilderness place.

As we left the beach, I noted the piles of kelp heaped along the high tide line and made a mental note to gather some soon to mulch and fertilize my garden.