[IMAGE] low tide

…click to listen:

…about the music

Ahhhhhhh.

Each summer, perfectly timed for the dramatic Salish Sea’s lowest tide of the season, the Friday Harbor Laboratories has a little get-together called the “beach walk.” Graciously hosted on the private property of one or another friend or board member of the Labs, about 40 people as inquisitive about sea life as I, but far more knowledgable, rise early in the a.m., tug on their mud boots or rubber-soled water sandals, and do their best to remain upright on the slippery kelp while examining all sorts of fascinating creatures who, more often than not, live well beyond reach.

[IMAGE] Blood star
Yikes! She cut herself! Naw… but the wonderful Blood Star is aptly named (hand model in this and all other pix: unknown).

None of these critters expected to have their beauty sleep interrupted by prying fingers gently coaxing them from upturned rocks, but they gamely played along as marine scientists enthusiastically described their eating habits and sex lives. Oh, the indignity! Depending on the luck of the animal, the scientist would chose whether to toss it back to the sea, or into a collecting bucket for further lab study. Yup: life is unfair.

[IMAGE] worm in captivity
Apparently, the early tide-pooler gets the worm.

And so, last weekend, on an exceptionally tranquil, hazy Sunday at 8:30 a.m.,

[IMAGE] low tide and kelp

…I was unusually social in my own hazy state. I’m not a morning person, but the dual joy of hearing from marine experts about what sea life has been up to recently, and hearing from my island friends about what they’ve been up to recently, makes it all worthwhile. Plus, as a member of the Labs’ Advancement Board for the past five years, it’s wonderful to invite new people and get them more involved in the great work that this extension of the University of Washington’s College of the Environment has been doing for so long.

[IMAGE] purple urchin
And speaking of extensions, this’ll wake anyone up: an impressively large Purple Urchin. Uh huh, those pointy spines are sharp. Just looking a them makes me go “ouch!”.

[IMAGE] star
An adorably small sea star. I named him Gumby.

[IMAGE] nudibranch
This nudibranch is stylin’ in its teeny weeny polka dot bikini.

[IMAGE] decorator crab
Unlike the snail above, decorator crabs aren’t nearly as discerning when it comes to fashion choices. They’ll just wear anything right off the rock. I mean, rack.

[IMAGE] worms
Here’s both a big worm, and a small worm called a “feather duster” in this jar (complete with nutritional information). Hard to see in this pic, but there’s an actual feather duster-like appendage on the lefthand end of the smaller worm. What they lack in fashion sense, they make up for in tidying up around the place.

[IMAGE] rower
In the distance, a man in a very small row boat floated on the placid, foggy horizon.

[IMAGE] bull kelp
Nature’s art: a flower-like mass of bull kelp at my feet.

Having spent enough time harassing innocent sea creatures, by the late morning it was time to return to my studio, refreshed, inspired, salty and slightly gooey. Surely, there must be many, many notes in this tangle of kelp! I’m avidly searching for the best ones, as I embark on several new works. There are many things I love about summers here at home on San Juan Island, and one of them is being here, at home, on San Juan Island. Apart from some sailing and camping adventures, I don’t leave the island for any work-related trips until late September. That has me smiling, “Ahhhh,” while it has my muses looking to the kelp, for all the right notes.