Wednesday, July 24, 2013



I have lived on the beach for the last 20 years. Someone recently asked me what the strangest thing was I'd ever found washed ashore. When I began telling them all the various things - from both nature and the flotsam of humankind - I realized it was worth sharing some that came to mind. 

In no particular order:

1960s credit card
dinghy (with a hole in the bottom)
coconuts (4)
messages in bottles (3)
bits and pieces of boats
dead things (grey whale, seals, sea lion, blue heron, gulls, fish, etc)
eagle feathers
porpoise skull
a beaver tooth
shoes (lots of shoes!)
garden hose
wooden signs
tide study cards
parts of crab pots
my own missing crab pot
car parts
duck decoys (3)
sunflower starfish
lots of seaweed
pottery shards
lots of trash & fireworks debris
a fork
tennis balls
beach glass
squirt gun
life vest

... and so much more!

Finding the messages in bottles were, at least initially, some of the more exciting finds. Sadly, two of them were unreadable as the paper had grown water-logged and pulpy, and the words blurred beyond recognition. I was tortured briefly wondering what the notes might have said. The third message I found was written by a girls' badminton team from an island north of me in Canada. It wasn't exactly as romantic or intriguing as you might hope a message in a bottle to be, but I wrote them back anyway, telling them where it had washed ashore and how long it had taken to reach me. 

Walking along the rocky beach here in the Pacific Northwest and looking down to find a coconut ranks pretty high in the unexpected realm. One time, we had been down wandering around in the tide pools looking for crab, and on our way back up to the house I found a perfectly intact coconut. It was covered on the outside with very fine red thread that had been woven into a sort of mesh netting; it was quite intricate and beautiful. We decided to crack it open to see if by chance it was edible, and indeed it was. You may think us crazy, but we ate this unexpected gift from the sea, wondering all the while where it might have come from, and who had picked it and wrapped it so delicately. It was delicious.

After all this time I note changes year to year. Some years I find sand dollars all summer long, others I see none. One summer, after having never seen them before, I found red sunflower starfish with their many legs, looking tropical amongst the grey rocks. 

Living by the seaside makes the world feel like a smaller place to me, makes me feel the connection we all share through the water that covers so much of our planet. 

What interesting things have you found at the beach?

p.s. If you're interested, check out this great book, The Highest Tide, about a young boy who shares my love of exploring the seashore.

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