Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bottom of the food chain

In this episode:

- Will plumbs the depths of Cape fashion...

- Gena is frightened by her footwear...

Another rainy day at the Cape. We'd planned to explore some tidal pools. The kids, especially my naturalist, were very excited. No tame aquarium/zoo experience, this!

The closer tidal pools proved a flop. They were at the end of an enormously long stone jetty built of giant boulders, often perched at precarious angles. Fun for a ten-year-old. Too dangerous for preschoolers.

We decided to drive further in to the Brewster Flats, a two-mile spread of tidal pools and beach. We arrived a bit before low tide. It was gray and raining lightly so we left our camera in the car. It was beautiful. Shimmering pools of shallow water interspersed with clumps of grasses and exposed sand as far as we could see. The swooping flocks of seagulls proved we were at the right place. We flung ourselves onto the sand and eagerly peered into the water. Where were they? The crabs? The starfish? The squid?

The first discovery was an almost invisible school of little fish. Not too exciting. We waded on. We could feel the tide slipping away, and our feet squelched in the runnels of soft sand and seaweed.

An unbroken shell! I bent down to pick it up and show my son. Look! He took it from me, turned it over. "Mom! It's got a crab in it!" Sure enough. A hermit crab nestled inside. I replaced it in the sand. There were so many little hermit crabs, scuttling in the shallow waters. They were tiny, the size of a fingernail. We were entranced, and then worried about stepping on them.

We waded further out. The tide kept receding, opening new stretches of sand. And we started finding the corpses. The empty shells of crabs, the opened and broken shells...the detritus of the seagulls' gorging. We kept forging further out. We found no crab left uneaten, except for the tiny hermits. Finally, my son turned away. "I'm getting creeped out, mom." He couldn't take all those broken bits of crab.

We started heading back in. The seagulls were mostly standing about now, no longer in a feeding frenzy. The sands were splattered with their droppings. It was like being at a park after a particularly drunken concert, the seagull equivalents of beer bottles and cigarette butts strewn about.

Two children and I were chasing schools of fish when Will emerged from a clump of grass. His legs were evenly dark from the knees down. Quite a look...the dark knee socks with shorts. Particularly fetching when the knee socks were made of mud. Apparently a short cut was not quite the solid ground it appeared. Two steps, and he had sunk deep. He lost both shoes and had to pry them out of the squelchy, smelly mud.

He was not happy.

As he was washing, I noticed a thin, dark creature swimming through the shallows. It looked like a small snake. An eel? I started to point and say, "Look! An eel!" when it moved towards me. And quicker than quick, that eel swam into my shoe!!! I was wearing Crocs. I guess probably mistook the Croc holes for nice hiding holes. Eeeek!!! I could feel it slither past my toes. I have idea how it got out, but out it got. Moral of the story: do not wear Crocs in the presence of eels.

The rest of our day was pleasant and uneventful. A stop by a lighthouse. Fried seafood and ice cream for dinner. A walk on the seashore, girls making sand castles and the boy learning to skip stones on the surf. And wind down to bedtime.

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