It is cold. It is spring. It is April in fact, and I am so tired of the cold. We had one day of warm weather this weekend, and it was heaven. It was that kind of warm that seems to come from nowhere but permeates everything. But it lasted one day and then the next morning, the drizzle came back, the clouds hung low and the temperature dropped 30 degrees.
But worse than cold, is the lack of sun, the grey days, the low clouds and the feel of sleep. It is as if the world, or my world was constantly covered by a thick eiderdown quilt, always being tucked into bed. I long to kick the covers off. But no the drowsiness stays.
On these days I drift on a foggy haze of consciousness. I can't seem to get my eyes open, or my thoughts in order. On these days I dream of summer, of hot asphalt and Popsicles. I dream of driving on long meandering roads that twist and turn through the valleys and countrysides and eventually find their way to the Pacific Ocean.
My Ocean...I have been to England several times now, and have seen the Atlantic from St. Ives, the North Sea from Whitby and the Channel from Dover and on a hop across it the Channel from Dieppe. But there is nothing like the Pacific Ocean, a wild or the warm, depending on which beach you are standing on.
I grew up at the north edge, in Washington state, where the mighty Pacific is grey and roars constantly as its wild foaming waves crash onto flat beaches and pull back with a hiss. I spent many a summer running in the numbing surf; a technique that is truly a northwest experience. You must first wade in slowly, allowing your feet to numb, then your ankles and finally your calves. There is no other way. If it is a hot day, you can go all the way to your waist, but it takes your breath away. The younger you are, the easier this is to do, I think because the love of wave jumping over-rides the feel of frigid water.
My grandfather was an avid clam digger, a sport that required a gun (shovel) a sac and the desire to be up at 5 am and dig holes in the cold hard sand at lowest tide. I learned how to read tide tables and low tide was almost always in the wee hours of the dawn. We would bundle up in coats scarves and boots to go out with my grandpa to dig. I loved watching him and learned at an early age how to tell if the clam was "home" by pushing my toe lightly, very lightly, at the small hole in the hard sand. If the ground around the hole went slightly soft, the clam was home and I would then draw a large circle around it to mark it for my grandpa. He would come along and take his clam gun and with a few deft digs, would unearth the unassuming clam. You had to be quick because the clam would start digging deeper as soon as the shoveling started. Sometimes grandpa would just do one dig and then stick his hand into the quicksand and manually hunt the clam. He always caught them. Inexperienced clam diggers would use the newer tube like clam guns that they rented at the motel, the kind you put over the whole and just pushed down and them pulled up, dumping the sand and hopefully a clam ,in a big heap. My grandpa disliked these amateur, saying there was no sport in it and was too intrusive, scaring off all the clams in the surrounding beds. You had to have a licence to dig, and there was a limit and size too. Too small, you had to release them, which I loved to do, because I got to watch them use their "foot" to dig back under the sand. They were quick.
One summer, I caught one all by myself. I found a hole and just started digging with my bare hands. I thrust my hand down as deep as I could and to my surprise, pulled out a clam. This then became my new friend. I named him clammy whammy and started planning for his new life. He (or she, I couldn't tell, hence the non-gender specific name) would live in a big fish tank in my house, and I would feed him (I had no idea what clams ate) and talk to him and he would be my pet. I put him in a bucket of sand and he was trundled off with the rest of the catch of the day.
But, that evening, as we were packing up to go home, I asked for my clam. My mother looked at me as if I had asked for the crown jewels, or a baby sister, or the moon. Then she said, "Oh, dear, well, your grandma ate him." I wailed and wailed, and between sobs said, " but he was going to be my pet." My mother laughed, it was a nice laugh, not a mean one, not meant to hurt me, it was more that she was taken by the absurdity of the whole idea of me trying to keep a clam as a pet. She explained that my grandmother loved clams and the plan all along had been to clean and fry them for supper. Grandpa caught them and grandma ate them.
And after that, I felt that my grandmother was a bit of a cannibal.