A Walk on the Water: The Perfect Puget Sound Afternoon
Here is my recipe for a perfect afternoon:
- 1 beloved aunt,
- 1 beloved uncle,
- 1 beloved son
- 1 low tide (a rare - 2.9 on a recent Friday afternoon) on the Puget Sound.
Mix them all together on a lovely cliff-to-shore walk in Seattle’s Discovery Park.
As we wandered down toward the Sound along the Discovery Park Loop Trail, my son Aidan’s lengthening locks billowed behind him like Mel Gibson’s luscious Braveheart and my Aunt Sharon pointed out a colony (and the potential misery) of stinging nettle.
“You DO NOT want to touch those,” she mentioned.
I’m glad she did. With it’s pretty stairstep-sided leaf, it’s a plant I might have added to the bunch of forest foliage that I usually gather when I walk on Northwest trails. Lesson learned: stinging nettle makes for good medicinal tea, but it’s a nasty, itchy, rashy irritant if you touch the plant directly. How anyone figured out welt-inducing forest greenery is great for fighting allergies and promoting urinary health is beyond me. That is the mystery and beauty of medicinals — and the herbalists through the ages who figured them out.
The last time I was on this beach it was during a much higher tide and so I enjoyed more of a rocky beach stroll, sticking close the lines of driftwood along the cliffs walls of the park. The ocean felt near and tight.
No so yesterday. By 1 pm the was at a -2.9 low. I don’t know exactly how the numbers are determined fir high and low tides, but in laywoman’s terms the tide was way, way, way out. And that meant it was an opportunity to walk among the seagrasses and splash barefoot through clear, sandy pools far from shore.
As we walked two miles out and along the seabed, I was mesmerized by the patterns made in the dark Puget Sound sand by receded water, captivated by the perfect little footprints of the gulls.
Stopping to take in the intricate interweaving of green sea lettuce and brown wakame seaweed (kelp to the rest of us) I was reminded of a multi-green paper mâché painting my daughter made for me years ago. I wondered for a moment if someone strolling along this stretch long ago could have been inspired to create the same patchwork art from strips of gluey paper? Ok, I know paper mache is French. As someone strolled along a beach at low tide in France?
My Uncle Jim and Aunt Sharon carried a thin stick with them and as we got closer to the tideline, sprays of water launched from the sand beneath our feet — we’d wandered into a field of geoducks. One of these oversized mollusks bravely stuck his huge siphon out of the sand, too tempting for Jim who tried to raise it out of its hidey hole. But the geoduck is one strong, if phalic-looking, clam. This one wasn’t budging and soon receded back so that its mouth was just beneath the surface. It shot a long plume of water at us as we walked away as if to say “Nice try, buddy!”
I noticed on our return that that brave clam had returned to the sunbathing we'd interrupted — its siphon long and stout way above the sand.
Clams and tiny crabs, rocks and wood, pools and sandbars and a view of the Olympic Mountains you just can’t beat. It's scene that begs creativity and contemplation.
Watching my son crouching down to take wonderful artsy photos of the sand and sea — and his eagerness to show them to me — I felt blessed beyond these words.
I am so grateful for experiences such as these. These largely spur-of-the-moment “Let’s just go see” times.
Because as my beloveds wandered back toward me from different directions of the beach, I inhaled the sulphery sea air, unzipped my jacket to catch it cool against my skin and felt what I can only describe as simple, unmitigated JOY.