wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Lying Around

On the beach, I found some things that have been lying around for a long, long time.

This tree, for example, has been clinging to life for decades, possibly waiting to change into a lizard and join its friend farther up the beach. Something happened to the tree, perhaps as it fell over with its roots still in the ground. Maybe at that time it was much smaller and the huge boulder injured it, or prevented it from growing straight.

This may have been when the gnarly knot that we call a burl was formed. These twisted lumps have an interesting grain, and markings that make them special. Artists love to take burls to their woodworking shops to make clocks and coffee tables out of the slices they can cut from the burl.

Just look at the size of this burl. I’m sure the rock had something to do with its formation over many years.

Under this tree, the sandy soil contains countless clamshells. The shells are not in all parts of the higher beach, making me wonder why they are all together in one place.

One guess is that it might have been a midden – a place where early peoples camped and ate clams, leaving the shells  in their “dining room.”

I found a similar midden in Baja California, where the native people from decades gone by brought their shellfish from the beach to a small cave where they ate the seafood and left the shells behind.

Here is another example of the parts of the beach with and without shells, higher up on the bank.

There could be other possible explanations, but for now, I like to think it was a midden – the lunch table where no one cleared away the dishes.


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Bounty on the Beach

At first glance the beach looks somewhat empty of life, but if you take the time to look closer, you can see that it is like a giant grocery store filled with millions of small morsels of seafood.

If you’re not hungry, just go for a walk.

Tiny butter clams make a good snack later on. Be sure you have your saltwater licence though.

Here is one of the millions of clams that make such a delicious appetizer.

Steamed in a pot, the clamshells open and the little clams inside are ready to eat. Melted butter and lime juice adds a wonderful flavour, or if you prefer, you can eat them with garlic butter.

Oysters are also there for the picking, but be sure to shuck them on the spot so the shells with the bits of oyster are left behind to ensure their reproduction. And before you ask, NO, I don’t know how oysters make love. They seem to have “clammed up” and won’t talk about it.


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The Necessities

“Hey, Emma! Get a load of this! They even have a toilet on board.”

“Yeah, right, Ruby, but unless they lift up this board we’re standing on, and we can use the steps, there’s a three-foot drop to the lower level. I think I’ll just wait till the Captain takes us to the beach.”

“This is more like it!”

Many times I’ve wished the dogs would do their business on the deck of the boat and we could hose it off, but no, they will suffer until they are brought to the beach. And you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks.


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Shorebirds

Down at our local beach the other morning, these godwits were pecking in the soft shore mud. They look similar to sandpipers, but the speckled feathers and the slightly upward curve of the extra long bill say “godwit.”

The long bills are designed to probe the mud and sand for worms, molluscs, and all sorts of aquatic life.

There are several subspecies of godwits. I think these are marbled godwits.  I’m not a bird expert, so if anyone can provide more info, I’m happy to hear it.

There is nothing religious about the name “godwit.” Supposedly, the bird was named for the sound it makes.

Did you know that godwits can sleep standing up?

They tuck their head behind the shoulder and stand on one leg and have a little nap.  Sometimes I feel tired enough to sleep standing up.  I understand resting my head, but standing on one leg? That’s asking for trouble.

There are many more kinds of shorebirds that look like these. It is a whole science in itself to learn to identify them. I heard one of the godwits talking:

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I love to dabble on the beach,

Poke at worms within my reach,

A tiny shrimp, a mini clam.

I am a godwit, yes I am.

*

 I stand on one leg for a nap,

I tell my friends, “Give me a tap.”

I’ll rest my head upon my shoulder.

Being with friends will make me bolder.

*

Then off we go to wade some more

All along the briny shore.

It’s a right fine restaurant,

Serving all the food I want.

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Do come see me on the beach,

Don’t mind if I keep out of reach.

It’s safer for me keeping clear,

But visiting will bring us cheer.

 


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Water on Three Sides

What are you looking at here? Let me help you get your bearings.

The hills in the distance, and beyond them the mountains you can’t see because of the low cloud cover, are on the mainland of British Columbia, just north of Vancouver. I am standing on Vancouver Island. You can deduce from that, that the city of Vancouver is not on Vancouver Island. In this photo we are looking to the east.

I’ve climbed up a hill a little way and am now looking to the south. You can see a spit of land that reaches out from the land’s end. The spit has been formed by a gazillion years of wave action swishing the sand along and dropping it to form a giant finger of sand. All the land you can see in this photo, including the mountains, is on Vancouver Island.

Looking to the west, you can see the sheltered water on the inside of the spit, and the harbour of Comox in the distance. Those toothpicks sticking up are the masts and trolling poles of fishing boats and sailboats in the marina. The two boats at anchor in the foreground are getting free moorage.

A few weeks ago, the Captain and I went for a walk that took us to the inside of the sheltered bay. You can see part of the spit in the distance on the far right horizon.

On the way to the trail we noticed the run-off from the excessive amount of rain we’d had. This is not a year-round creek, but a temporary run-off creek. I feel sorry for the large tree that has its feet in water, day and night. It may soon go the way of the broken off tree trunk in the photo below this one.

It may be broken off, but this tree is still serving a useful purpose. It is making many birds happy. Nuthatches and woodpeckers will make holes in the trees to nest in,  and the bugs they find in the trunk help give them strength to continue their work and to feed their babies.

Farther along, we came to the boardwalk. I love this scene. You see the run-off creek completing the water cycle as it brings the rainwater back to the sea. It’s great to have the boardwalk and not have to wade through the creek.

The trees along the water are mostly deciduous types. They are probably cottonwoods and a few poplar or alder types mixed in. My guess is they are cottonwoods because those grow taller than the others, and these are a good size.

Even in the cool weather, you can have a great day going for a walk around your neighbourhood.


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Royston Wrecks

The little song sparrow provides music on this quiet morning. “Come along, Anneli. This is the way to the path beside the beach.”

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The trees are blooming. I don’t know what kind they are, but they’re always the earliest ones. They grow wild everywhere.

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I step down from the beachside path to walk towards the water. Several little stone men are already on the beach. Some very patient person has been here. Have you ever tried to build one of these stone guys? It’s not as easy as it looks. I’m told they’re only cairns, but my imagination took off for a second there.

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Across the bay from where I live on Vancouver Island, is the tiny community of Royston. In trying to find out more about the history of the wrecks that are piled up to function as a breakwater for logging, I came across a very interesting article about it in the Vancouver Sun. Here is the link: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=3c998dce-5853-4a6c-ab97-d3d20fb8255a

I couldn’t find the author’s name, but at the end I saw that it had an email address and a copyright: lpynn@vancouversun.com  © (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

According to the article, at least 14 vessels have been purposely sunk here “as breakwaters for log-booming operations exposed to the southeast winds blowing down the Strait of Georgia.”

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The log booms are no longer active, but at certain times of the year, fish like to come into the shallows here to tease fly fishermen. The wrecks are still doing their job of protecting the shore from the worst weather, and probably they are providing places for fish and other sea life to hide.

The misty haze hangs over the Gulf Islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island – very typical of this region.

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Looking from the beach on the Royston side you can see the Town of Comox on the farther shore. Beyond that, you see the snow-capped mountains of the Coast Range on the mainland of British Columbia. These are not to be confused with the Rockies which are on the eastern border of British Columbia.

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“That’s it for today’s tour, Anneli,” says the song sparrow. “We don’t want to bore people. Gotta fly!”

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A Beach Too Far

“Stopstopstopstopstop!” I called. I rolled down the truck window and snapped a few pictures. The smell of the sea wafted in. Not that awful iodine smell of low tide, but the salty aroma of sea grasses and wet logs. A couple of pairs of mallards gabbled in duck-talk and waddled their duck-walk. A great blue heron stayed out of zoom range near the Canada geese who held a honking good conversation at the distant water’s edge.

I would have missed all this if I hadn’t insisted on capturing this photo. As I rolled the window up, the Captain said, “I could live here.”

“Me too,” I said, “but remember about 30 years ago we almost bought a place near here? We’d have peace and quiet and all this beauty, but it’s twenty miles to town if I ran out of cream for my coffee.”

“Or coffee for your cream.”

“Yeah.” We sighed. “Too far….”

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