Thursday, February 2, 2012

What the Tide Brought In

 Last month Puget Sound experienced two, count 'em two, King Tides, and we've just had a windstorm and lots of rain, so that calls for a bit of beachcombing.  And I'm inspired:  reading Flotsametrics and the Floating World, How One Man's Obsession With Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science, by Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Eric Scigliano.  What's more, they laid the foundations of their exploration of ocean frontiers here in Puget Sound.

It was a fine day for it, and Abbie and I slowly strolled along the tide line, noses down, expecting treasure.  If you think about it, and you keep your mind open, you will always find treasure.

It seems what comes up on the beach, regardless of how amazing it might be (I once found a dried lotus pod, with seeds, that had to have drifted in from the Far East), is predictable, even as to time of arrival.  The contours of shore and sea bed, rivers, winds, the sun, the moon, the spin of our planet, all combine in a complex interaction to create gyres, like the great Humboldt Current, and slabs of specific salinity that can deliver Japanese net floats to the Pacific Northwest shoreline, or South American tropical seeds to Galveston Bay.  One could even traverse all the great oceans, adrift, in 71 years.

We found the sole of a vintage shoe, very narrow heeled, and once stitched.  Sometimes really old things do show up; even today, First Nations canoes can drift in remote inlets and be discovered.  As with this sole, though, I believe in leaving them as found so someone else can also experience the curiosity and unwinding mystery of ocean currents.

It's inspiring, and it calls to mind so many of the great works of poets and writers, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for instance, and especially one of the longest sentences in modern fiction, from Ernest Hemingway -- please follow the link for a fine treat for your hungry mind and heart.

So there'll be even more sea-inspired works at my bench, too, like the bangle set I just finished, and plan to list on Etsy soon.  It's in the tribal style -- and considering the subject of tribes, we can let go of that idea of a time tribes were untouched by European culture until we landed -- they were beachcombers, too, and especially happy to find iron washed up in shipwrecks, long before Columbus planted his flag on their shores.

“That something I cannot yet define completely but the feeling comes when you write well and truly of something and know impersonally you have written in that way and those who are paid to read it and report on it do not like the subject so they say it is all a fake, yet you know its value absolutely; or when you do something which people do not consider a serious occupation and yet you know truly, that it is as important and has always been as important as all the things that are in fashion, and when, on the sea, you are alone with it and know that this Gulf Stream you are living with, knowing, learning about, and loving, has moved, as it moves, since before man, and that it has gone by the shoreline of that long, beautiful, unhappy island since before Columbus sighted it and that the things you find out about it, and those that have always lived in it are permanent and of value because that stream will flow, as it has flowed, after the Indians, after the Spaniards, after the British, after the Americans and after all the Cubans and all the systems of governments, the richness, the poverty, the martyrdom, the sacrifice and the venality and the cruelty are all gone as the high-piled scow of garbage, bright-colored, white-flecked, ill-smelling, now tilted on its side, spills off its load into the blue water, turning it a pale green to a depth of four or five fathoms as the load spreads across the surface, the sinkable part going down and the flotsam of palm fronds, corks, bottles, and used electric light globes, seasoned with an occasional condom or a deep floating corset, the torn leaves of a student’s exercise book, a well-inflated dog, the occasional rat, the no-longer-distinguished cat; all this well shepherded by the boats of the garbage pickers who pluck their prizes with long poles, as interested, as intelligent, and as accurate as historians; they have the viewpoint; the stream, with no visible flow, takes five loads of this a day when things are going well in La Habana and in ten miles along the coast it is as clear and blue and unimpressed as it was ever before the tug hauled out the scow; and the palm fronds of our victories, the worn light bulbs of our discoveries and the empty condoms of our great loves float with no significance against one single, lasting thing—the stream.”


  1. Lovley post!The new bracelet is a beauty and that Hemingway quote...fantastic!

  2. Love those bracelets and how I dream of living by the sea, perhaps one day.

  3. I'm so envious of your ocean. I'm landlocked. And I love the bracelets!