When I learned I’d be celebrating Thanksgiving in Seattle with my daughter, I immediately sent word to my beachcombing buddies who live there. Who wants to go to the beach on my free day?
I had enjoyed a lovely time beachcombing with these gals in June, and looked forward to a second opportunity. Sherri had to work and Leslie was maternally engaged (new Grandma!), but Chris and Lynn were game. Of course, living in Hawaii where seasonal changes are subtle, I intellectually knew, but did not internalize, how dramatically the weather changes from June to November at higher latitudes.
Wednesday morning dawned sunny, apparently an anomaly. As I waited for Chris in front of my flat, I regained the knowledge that sunny can still be brutal. I went back in for more layers, and began to wonder if perhaps my friends gave up beachcombing in the winter months and they were just humoring me. No chance of that, both ladies declared later. Beachcombing is a year-round obsession.
We returned to the spot we combed in June. As we left the tree- sheltered parking lot and headed to the left of a lighthouse, we saw more clouds than in town, and the force of the wind off Puget Sound hit us full force. Luckily, we were all pretty bundled up. It was not quite as fierce as Damon Point where we met at a beachcombing conference more than a year ago. But it did rip the tears right out of my eyes once we made our way to the beach. I’ve learned to partially overcome that by walking with my back to the wind, in this case, backwards. It’s very difficult to beachcomb when you can’t see.
Chris noticed that my hands were in my pockets, so she handed me the perfect pair of mittens for beachcombing with the fingers exposed. Unfortunately, over the course of the morning, I found myself using them to wipe my sniffles. I’ll have to take them home and wash them before I can give them back to her.
Almost immediately Lynn started finding bones. She’s been beachcombing for 10 years and has collected everything from glass to fishing bobbers of all colors and sizes. So she was happy to add to her bone collection.
Chris is currently collecting driftwood. There is a plentiful supply here along the Sound; the beach is littered with tree limbs and whole tree trunks. We even found a carved trunk. Upon closer inspection, we could see that the carvings had been painted a reddish color at one time. Both gals said it must be a recent beaching, as they had never seen it before. They follow some excellent beachcombing advice – know your beach. That way you recognize an anomaly when you see one, and you know where to find specific things. For example, on this beach, there’s a section where clay babies are plentiful. I saw some wonderful shapes among the concretions and picked up several, along with some driftwood.
At one point I thought I spied a red marble among the rocks, and shouted “Marble!” My companions quickly came over. But no, it was a hard berry.
We made our way down the beach to where it disappeared, and turned around, but found the tide was coming in. Skirting round the logs, I stepped ankle deep right into an incoming wave. The temperature of the Sound is around 42 ̊F at this time of year. Yuck, cold and wet socks and shoes. Oh well, one of the hazards of combing.
On the other side of the lighthouse, we found shelter from the wind, and the combing was different; still plenty of bones and driftwood, but no clay babies. Here the sand was soft and dry with fewer rocks and shells. About 40 seagulls hung above the water some 50 feet out and we wondered what they had found. Indeed, one of the best things about beachcombing is this opportunity to study nature.
I’ve become more discriminating in the sea glass I put in my bag. If they aren’t “cooked” enough, Chris’ expressive word for tumbled and frosted, I throw them back into the water to “cook” some more. A nice piece of sea glass can take 20 – 30 years to develop that patina. Pottery shards are another matter – anything goes. I scored a shard of blue pottery and two white pieces. The shard with the bumps is intriguing.
Along the way, Chris and I recalled our other beach-combing last summer. We went to Alki Beach on the edge of a busy shipping lane. Alki has a long history of being a dumping grounds, so beachcombing is good there and is a well-known site. The beach is mostly rocky, with the occasional piece of seaglass. Chris found a gorgeous large blue chunk.
The beach also has sections covered in drying kelp and seaweed. In fact, that’s where I found a marble and a lovely piece of shell covered in a miniature seaweed composition. Can you spot the marble on the dried seaweed?
A gentle rain brought me back to our present adventure in November. No one said anything as we ambled along on the sand back towards to parking lot. About five minutes later, Chris said, “We better get moving before it starts raining.” I laughed out loud. This is the difference between unrepentant beachcombers, especially those who live in Seattle, and everyone else. As they said again and again, “There’s no such thing as a bad day at the beach.”
PS. Here’s what I collected while beachcombing in Seattle: clay babies, driftwood, pottery shards and sea glass.
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