Had a whale of a time mucking around on the beach at low tide that morning with my son’s fifth grade class a few weeks ago. All up to the gills in neat things to look and, smell and feel, deep in concentration, ebb and flow of kids between water line and rocky shore. And kudos to the leader the facilitating non profit environmental education group, who reeled all the parent volunteers in and specifically gave permission for the kids in each of our “groups” to drift off down the beach and not be called back to stay with the group. “Just wave and say, ‘see ya!'” was her wise advice. I like to see that prioritization of learning over control. There weren’t any cliffs or dangerous undertow currents, after all.
A good hour or so of free exploration, a few optional tools and field guides, parents to carry heavy stuff and bandage fingers sliced by shells. The field guides went by the wayside, the shovels got whisked off for use on the sandy part of the beach, and the pan filled up with things to look at and show off: purple sea stars, sun stars, limpets, clams, mussels, hermit and rock crabs, red, green, and brown algae, sand worms, and small fish. One find let to another: as we were lowering a rock after we’d finished admiring the mass of golden eggs stuck to its underside, the water in its muddy footprint swirled and revealed a mud-colored fish keeping guard. Later I found a post with a good photo of the fish.
All very nice, all very good. The kids gently return all the creatures and habitat samples back to the wild as instructed, and toddle back to the school in time to ride the diesel-powered buses, parental hybrid vehicles, SUVs, and minivans lined up on three sides of the school. Today they learned how neat nature is, and did what children way back to Adam and Eve’s got to do with their morning hours, messing around with real things God placed on this Earth. What now? …I’m fishing for possibilities, plumbing depths for implications, diving for pearls. How about this: instead of merely poking and prodding, then gathering up at the park shelter for pizza and drink boxes, why not then gather firewood, pull out the nets and rods, and catch dinner? Och, it’s a park, girl, and what if everybody did that? And I say, what if–let’s explore the idea in theory, anyway–what if a lot of folks really did? Not all in the park, but spread out, like, along the coast, up and down. If all the current inhabitants of the coast had to go locovore and forage with their young and old ‘uns, go out and fish, and never venture back to the grocers’ in the petro-powered vehicle at all? Would the impact really be net destructive? That’s what I want to know. I mean, if the contents of those intertidal zones and pelagic fields weren’t contaminated by mercury and whatnot from the other more modern ways of pursing a livelihood, if they were still edible like in the old days?
Next time, I want to take the kids up to the Lummi shoreline for a lesson in survival from the elders who still know how to make that kind of living. Just in case California really does dry up in the next few years and not send us any more off season fruits and veggies, let alone lunchables and go-gurt.