When I was about ten we visited Cape Cod. Most of our summers involved this yearly ritual, it was something I enjoyed and something I know my parents did too, excepting of course for the two proto-humans they had to put up with who were always hungry and never hesitated to pout or fight.
Times have changed, water levels as well, and the Chatham beach we spent so many summers on is but a mere shell of its former self. Back then, to get to the beach, you walked past a typical American beach shack that sold hot dogs and hamburgers and cookies and chips and Suzy Q’s and plastic rafts, fish nets, coolers, and styrofoam buoys to strap on and avoid, like, drowning with. You know, good old fashioned American fun stuff that’s so great for you and the environment!
My brother and I did not need styrofoam buoys because we swum, like, good, but we did want everything else in the store, especially the comic books they sold from a turning display rack at the door. Fortunately, they also sold beer, so my parents could be content to enjoy a day at the beach with two whining brats.
Anyway, after walking past this beach shack, there was some marshland where the cat o’ nine tails grew tall and the marsh scents grew strong at low tide. After the marsh the beach began, and stretched for a short distance to the left and a long ways to the right. The area to the left was shorter because it was interrupted by water-there was a small bay that channeled out into the ocean. In the back of this bay a small river fjorded its way into the marshland, and it was in this area that I spent some of the most memorable and regrettable moments of my childhood.
In the middle of these marshes were pools dotting the landscape, and these were all bordered by small wet dunes freckled with thousands of fiddler crab holes. Hermit crabs and regular, toe-piercing crabs peopled these pools as well, as did minnows and even some eels, and it was amazing to discover all of these creatures and see them in their natural habitats. That was the memorable part.
It also turned out to be easy to learn how to stick your finger down into the sand behind and below the fiddler crabs, forcing them up and out of their holes, where you can then catch them and tear their big claws off.
I had issues.
And yes, this was the regrettable part. But, over time, this fascinating world in the marshes trumped my appetite for destruction, and has led me to enjoy a life in complete and utter fascination, respect, and hands-off curiosity when it comes to the world of nature.
This fascination also led me to wonder about the rivulet at the back of the bay as well. I guess I must have thought that since the water traveled faster there that it might contain larger, faster, and even more interesting creatures in there. Like basking sharks.
Thanks to David Mark on Pixabay for the pic!
You’ll notice that this feller has no teeth (well, it does but they’re teensy), which is why it would have been totally OK for me to play with him, had I found him in my rivulet at the back of the bay. It only eats, like, water and tiny bugs floating in it, called ‘floaties’.
But unfortunately there were no basking sharks in my rivulet. As a matter of fact, I never found any creatures there. What I found, after taking a few tentative steps forward on the mussel-strewn, muddy bottom, was that the land fell away towards the middle where I couldn’t see because of the rushing waters and the mud I had kicked up. It fell straight down, I don’t know how far, because my lungs were halfway filled with water and, I realized, I was in grave danger of drowning.
I flailed myself up to the surface long enough to see how far my parents were across the bay. They would never be able to get to me in time. I went down again. Everything was getting dark, but I still continued to flail. Somehow my brain got me to realize that the underwater cliff I had fallen over was still very close, and in shallow water. I sputtered that way and somehow managed to grab hold of the bottom and drag myself out of the depths.
I remember shaking for a little bit, once I was on solid ground, and being very embarrassed. It was something I’ve spent a lifetime making sure I never repeat.
Many bible-wavers out there might say God was punishing me for my treatment of the fiddler crabs, and if you think the Almighty whiles his hours away with keeping his big scorecard of rewards and punishments then be my guest.
I, however, like to think of it another way. Up until that point in my life (and beyond!), I had spent my time sheltered in a middle class house, enjoying the best America could offer when it came to recreational activities and various combinations of the best cuisines: fast foods and sweets. America also offered me nothing in the way of real life lessons, unless you count the million spankings my wonderful childhood was sprinkled with, like molten sparks in a gingerbread house, although I can’t for the life me say why you would find them there.
Almost drowning is a pretty important life lesson, especially if you can pull yourself to safety. Especially if there’s no one around to save your ass. It teaches you to be responsible for your actions, to be accountable to yourself. I don’t even see the experience as anything negative-and I hope anyone who reads this won’t either. I wouldn’t recommend the experience to anyone, but I hope it’s easy to see why it’s nothing to bawl and bitch about.
Maybe I should’ve worn me one of them stupid styrofoam thingies.