I wrote this a few days ago. It's not a very polished entry...but if you like thoughts that act like jumping beans, you might like it. :)
I’m on the coast of Cambria, and today I simply had to poke a sea anemone.
After a rather exhausting, whirlwind shopping trip for interview clothes in Santa Barbara’s Nordstrom (ending the day with a flowy white blouse, slim black slacks, and a pair of cylinder heel pumps), I realized I had to go to a local café in order to use my laptop and do tedious nursing license transfer things.
Well, my grandpa handed me the keys to his amazing Infinity SUV (aka, a-spacious-living-room-on-wheels) and I headed to a local shop. I was able to do what I needed to do, sipping my latte as I worked out necessary red tape items.
Afterwards, I was just going to drive home. And then I looked to my right.
There, as it has been this whole week, was the sprawling, blue, sparkling ocean. Just sitting there. A huge, vast mystery of beauty and wonder, stretching out in front of me like moving glass. For years, it has filled me with a sense of awe, sending those feelings of warmth and tinglyness through my soul that I never could really put words around.
I had to go down and see it. Right now.
I mean, I had sort of anticipated this desire. I brought a spare pair of capris with me (I had been wearing those huge billowy hippie pants that Holland gave me, but they would drag in the sand) and pulled a Mr. Bean after I had parked the car in a rather remote spot. This meant I quickly changed my pants while sitting in the driver’s seat, hoping no officer would decide, at that moment, to come knock on my window.
All cleared, the dregs of my coffee in hand, I purposefully walked the boardwalk. I passed by many a casual walker, most of them middle aged or older couples. At one point, I passed a man leaning over the balcony, singing in a deep baritone to himself. I couldn’t catch the words, but I stopped for a moment, just beyond him, so that I could listen. I thought of complimenting him on his voice, but stopped myself. Sometimes moments like that are private, hidden times. I had the same experience myself only two days before. I was filled with the urge to sing as I looked out at the sea, and I did! Over the waves, I don’t think I was heard by the other people nearly fifty yards away, but I couldn’t bear the thought of them actually hearing me.
Leaving him be, I continued my trek until I came to a certain place I remembered from a few years before. Surprisingly, I was the only one there. Most people would stop at the top of the stairs, read the plaques about tide pools, then move on, without actually stopping to look at the tide pools.
They don’t know what they’re missing.
Here is what must be done in order to fully appreciate a tide pool:
1. You must find a proper “poking” stick. This will be necessary for prodding at things in the tide pools that you would rather not touch with your hands.
2. You must look for tide pools like you would for treasure. Each tide pool is different and may hold some new creature that wasn’t in the last tide pool. Make sure you look at several, and not just satisfy yourself with one. There are too many wonderful things to see.
3. Wear the right shoes. Tide pools are, out of necessity, on or by rocks. Wearing a good pair of strappy sandals that can withstand some dirt and water are best.
4. Be shameless. Exploring tide pools is appropriate for any age. So what if you’re ten or sixty nine? It’s not worth missing out on for the sake of “dignity”
These rules in mind, I found several lovely tide pools. At first, my findings didn’t take me far. I found a few small crab carcasses and some sea snails. Down at a deep tide pool just beyond my reach was an orange sea star the size of my hand.
And then I turned and my eyes lighted on a pale yellow bunch of sea anemones, clinging to a bit of rock.
“Anemones!” I cried (it felt good to say it aloud).
Picking my way down over the pocked grey rock, I squatted down and reached the end of my stick into the water.
“Poke!” I said in a high pitched voice when I touched the middle of a rather large anemone. With a satisfied startle, its wavy petal-like phalanges closed in on itself, like a puckered mouth.
I did the same to its surrounding friends, uttering different sounds each time. “Ding!” “Boink!” and “Poke!” were the main ones I used. It just felt right.
All of them closed, I withdrew my stick, waiting for their little wormy fingers to undo themselves again, opening like little flowers. Little did they know that the coast was not yet clear! Many of them received more than one poke. I just couldn’t help myself.
I then came across one tide pool with a small orange starfish in it. It was about five inches in total diameter. All points clung to the rock, save one. It curled inwardly, like it was sticky paper come loose. Using this as a “poking point,” I managed to poke it away from its perch until it floated, top side down, in the water. I stared at its little itty bitty arms on its underside, also examining the little hole of a mouth it had in its center.
I had the sudden urge to touch it.
Again using my stick (see how necessary it is?) I put it back on its feet and, hesitantly, I picked it up. It felt rough on my fingers, like sand paper. It creeped me out and thrilled me at the same time. This little guy was ALIVE!! And yet not vicious. He couldn’t bite me or anything. Slowly, I put him back where he had been before. He looked prettier there.
After this, I spent most of my time poking at scuttling hermit crabs and chiseling tiny clams from their sucker cling to the rocks, watching with infantile delight as they would tumble from their perch into the bottom of the pool. Then I would watch it for a few seconds to see if it would make an attempt to get back on. None of them did. Probably because they don’t have legs. But hey, what do I know of sea life? Oh! I also spotted a magenta sea urchin, but its prickly spikes held no temptation for me. Don’t they have paralytic poison?
Knowing that my grandparents would begin to worry, I headed back to the steps. But not before inspecting the exotic array of broken drift wood and sea weed that littered the ridge. The drift wood bleached white, I fancied myself standing on a pile of bones, bleached from the sun. It was a rather pirate-y thought, and I relished it with a smile on my face.
Before I made my trek back up, I did swipe a rather impressive piece of driftwood. I think it may come in handy for draping jewelry over. If not, at least I would be able to use it to defend myself, in case some bum wanted to accost me (there had been a hitchhiker and his dog on the rode earlier…I dare him come and face my stick!)
As I walked back to the car, I felt satisfied. I had poked the anemones. And that was what I wanted to do ever since I got hooked on it, nearly four years ago.
If you ever, ever have a chance to poke a sea anemone, I highly recommend it. It’s therapeutic, it’s satisfying, and there is nothing else quite like it.