I spent hours on the beach yesterday on a low tide beach walk. It was rejuvenating and magical. It rained and it sunned. I met strange creatures and friends. I wholeheartedly believe in Dr. John Medina's 12th Brain Rule: we are powerful and natural explorers.
Most people see the beach and see this. A beach. Some gravel. Okay, lots of gravel. Some slimy green stuff. Cold-ass water. This is a minus 2 tide on a cool July day on Sunset Beach on Lummi Island in the San Juan's. I've lived here for over nine years now and every day, every tide is completely different.
Our beach is pristine and natural. It used to be empty almost all the time, but that is changing. We share our beach with The Willows Inn. I have always loved the place. They do an amazing job, and finally they are getting their due, being touted in the New York Times multiple times- all because of him. He is chef Blaine Wetzel. He is 25 years old. He uses only local ingredients including the wild mustard that grows on the lot next to us, Nootka rose petals on the road, and the wild beach peas on our beach. But this is not about Blaine. I've been harvesting stuff on the island for years.
That emerald green seaweed is sea lettuce. It's delicious in a stir fry. The olive green growth that looks like puffy fingers is fucus; otherwise known as pop weed, bladder wrack, and even fucus mucus. It can be made into "sea cheetos." (I never acquired a taste for it.) I've made bull kelp pickle rings, and wrapped a salmon in kelp fronds to steam while it grills.
This purple seaweed is Turkish towel. This is an older piece. I prefer mine absolutely fresh. If you boil it in water and then remove the Turkish towel after about twenty minutes, you'll have the gelatin for making chocolate pudding. Just add cocoa, sugar and milk; stir and cool. This is a source of carrageenan. All of this comes from the beach, but I learned how to identify these edibles years ago when I took a fabulous class called "Feasting on Flotsam" taught by the talented and wondrous writer/kayaker/artist Jennifer Hahn.
Not everyone pays as close attention to the details, the minutia, though. The guests from The Willows, who seem to be foodies from around the world, ask me what I'm looking for. Sometimes I say "agates and minerals." Sometimes I say "enlightenment, serenity, grounding, beauty." It just depends on my mood.
I do find that. And more. A half-eaten flounder that an eagle left on the beach. Blaine wouldn't cook it, but I was fascinated by the skull and the texture of its skin. I've found thousands of agates, petrified wood, jade, seal's teeth. Bird bones and feathers.
But what I mostly find is that my feet are happiest on the beach. However I would like to warn the new Willows guests that this is not a beach where you can go barefoot. I saw a couple the other day who were trying to jump from sand patch to sand patch. There is very little sand here unless we get a westerly, which pulls the gravel into the strait. The wife was gallantly laying piles of dried eel grass so the husband, who had very tender feet, could navigate the mineral-rich gravel. I advised them to climb off the beach and walk on the grassy roadside back to the inn.
Or wear sandals. It will be good for your soles.
And your soul, too.
Happy exploring- and I hope you find whatever it is you are looking for.