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Creatures of the Beach

Kachemak Bay has some of the most extreme tides in the world. Often, in one day, there would be a vertical tidal difference of more than twenty feet. That was the difference between taking the kayaks a few paces from the top of the beach to the water and carrying the heavy load down for what seemed like ages. People new to the area often land-locked their boats, underestimating the tides’ swift changes.
There was a reason Rick called their beautiful views “an ever living, moving picture.” Low tide was a different world; it changed the landscape into something different. It revealed sandbars, the connections of islands under the water, and hidden beaches covered in washed up shells. While I was there, Kachemak Bay experienced the lowest tides they had seen in over ten years. They were magical, unveiling part of the subaquatic world—glistening maroon kelp fronds, Christmas Anemones, the occasional sea star, and massive Pacific Barnacles—that hadn’t seen the light in a while. 

    On low tides, I walked on the beach with Rick and Dorla or the guests, looking at the scurrying hermit crabs, the iridescent Periwinkle Snails, the little barnacles, the mussels and clams, and finally, the limpets. Some of the limpets—snails in conical shaped shells—were smaller than a black pepper corn. I’d pick them up gently and place them on my pinky nail; they’d quickly suction down and stay put for as long as I let them. Then there were the little burrowing anemones that buried themselves in the beach. All that could be seen of them was a small donut shape that was almost impossible to find. Rick and Dorla had trained eyes and spotted them almost instantly. We put our fingers in the middle, gave them a tickle, and watched their tentacles close up tight.
It truly felt like playing—the three of us, squatting over a tidal pool, giggling at the hermit crabs’ hairy legs on our palms, marveling at a tiny fish we hadn’t seen before, and pointing at the different patterns on the limpets’ shells. They were like little paintings, every last one of them, filling me with a feeling of immense wonder. I could not believe how truly beautiful everything was, how full of personality and individuality. Rick and Dorla’s overwhelming joyfulness and childlike nature started to make sense to me; this environment made a kid of me again. It reminded me of afternoons spent in my backyard as a child reading my Mud Pie book. It was filled with recipes like “Rose Soup” or “Mud and Rock Stew.” I spent hours finding pine needles, or acorns, or whatever the recipe called for, mixing them all together in a big bucket. There is a simple but profound joy in interacting with the world around us. Rick and Dorla were in their sixties and I in my twenties, but as far as I was concerned, in those moments we were all somewhere between three and five, eyes wide and softly whispering: “cool…”
By Jackie Kraut