My son’s been obsessed with sea life lately; twice in the last week he’s taken me to the Swansons boat launch in HQX to find a “fish skeleton” he saw there once with his father. Ralph later told me this incident was over a year ago. After yesterday’s most recent failed search Nels suggested we go to a “real beach” and find a starfish. So we decided to make that our mission today.
All four of us love roadtrips; the children always request we parents get up early and “snuffle them out to the car”. This means as they sleep we pack up the food and clothes and supplies and then slip our (still-sleeping) babies in blankets out to the warm car, with breakfast on the road. I literally do not know who likes this ritual more, the children or Ralph and I.
It’s been a year since our last trip to Ruby Beach but the weather is similar: warm and lovely with some soft rain. Once again we have the dog and once again we do our best not to get wet but get wet anyway. Ralph builds a massive driftwood bridge over a freshwater outlet that would otherwise not be crossable unless you’re able to wade knee-deep.
While Ralph and Phoenix build the bridge (with fake-shivery dog in tow) Nels and I search for our starfish; we nearly get beached on a few seastacks (I can’t tell if the tide is going out or coming in which compounds this issue). Nels seriously loves nothing more than to get “caught” along with me. He knows it’s dangerous but since I’m with him he’s happy to do it anyway.
My son and I find mussels and barnacles and limpets and kelp and a neon-orange sea snail – but no starfish. I remember toward the end of our searchings that he’d found last year’s starfish in the open water (likely dead or injured although it had been impossible to tell). We play and play and play, spending over two hours in the warmth and damp. The ocean is gentle and tender but ferocious and unrelenting. My son talks to me joyously and musically and almost non-stop, but listens to every rejoinder I make. Alone with my children I am often prone to silence, rather like my departed father (this is odd becasue with grownups I am quite talkative).
Phoenix is a stormy presence, alternatively cheerful and open and then snapping at Ralph or I. She wades through the warm water and stirs it with sticks; she tenderly shepherds the dog and in her ministrations calms his decrepit timidity.
Nels says: “I want to live here!”
Back at the car we get the kids into dry clothes* and feed them from the large basket of food Ralph had prepared. Driving home they both fall asleep, their sea-kissed faces flushed and happy. At home I knead dough and wash dishes; I launder our wet clothes and wash the dog and clip him and dry him and clean out the tub. Ralph spirits off to band practice, afterward bringing home bandmate and friend F. We drink red table wine and eat homemade pizza and smoke on the porch and F. and I talk circles around Ralph about our favorite movies and a variety of hodgepodge subjects and before we know it it’s 10:30 and another wonderful weekend draws to a close.
* We got wet and no other beachgoers did: seriously? Every. Single. Other. Beachcomber was all decked out in REI and North Face wicking-gear and driving newer Hondas, VWs, Subarus; most carried huge, expensive cameras (and only one other group had kids!). We four were trudging in our soaking-wet cotton and Ralph had split the ass out of his pants (for reals). And yes, people were giving us side-eye.