Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quahogs in winter

The water is cool now, 42° F.

I sit in my warm home, the Christmas tree lit, with various sea ornaments hung from the balsam tree. Sharks, shells, crabby crustaceans, dolphins, and even penguins swim through the fir green branches

Outside my quahogs sit in Richardson Sound, dormant now, waiting for the sun to return, to warm up the shallow waters that feed the back bay mud.

Last week I cast into a strong breeze, the waves crashing on the beach, the foam rising to my feet.

One bump, no fish. The steel skies would have shamed El Greco with their beauty. The breakers glowed against the gray water. No one else was on the beach. No one.

The sand pipers skittered about my feet, ignoring my presence, glomming what few calories they could on the cold edge of the sea. A loon surfaced, glanced my way, then glooped back under the gray water.

The quahogs are home, as they will always be. A clam might move a few feet here, a few feet there, maybe an inch or two for every year of its long, long life.

We struggle against deadlines, we eat food from fields we cannot imagine, we drive using sunlight caught millions of years ago, and we race across time chasing time.

And my clams rest in the mud, eating, growing, being, in the dark mud inches below the cold bay floor.

One day I will eat my last quahog. The great mystery, one too nebulous to discuss in polite company, is this--why is there a last one?

Have I already eaten it?

Above is the Lady Mary, a local scallop boat that sank under mysterious circumstances March 24, 2009, killing 6 scallopers, possibly hit by a passing freighter. That's me just under the bow.

The Lady Mary now rests on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, 200 feet of water over her. Scallops still appear in the market, every day. The names of the fallen fishermen will be carved in the Fisherman's Memorial, overlooking the harbor, where they will join too many others.


Dinner tonight helps me claw through the winter dark. Pesto made from basil picked months ago, Brussels sprouts just picked last week.

I want to live like the clam, resting in the rich muddy bottom, eating by the grace of the sea, by the Grace of God. The tide rises, the tide falls--my faith straining every few hours as the whole sea slips away, twice a day.

Like the clam, I have faith the sun will rise tomorrow, as it has, and that I will be here to see it. Unlike the clam, though, I do not have the sense to slow down with the dying light.

The pictured quahogs were harvested in November, along with the tomatoes.
Leslie took the picture of the Lady Mary in port. The other was taken by Bradley Sheard, found in The Star-Ledger


Kathryn J said...

I love your description of steely skies and will think of El Greco rather then bemoaning the lake-effect gray that sets in to my area in November and December. Last week it got to light gray and I thought I needed sunglasses.

Tomorrow is the Solstice. I will eat pesto lazagna in a nod to last summer's sun and lift a glass of bubbly to toast the turn that will bring next summer's harvest.

I hope you eat many more quahogs!

doyle said...

Dear Kathryn J,

Thank you for the warm words, and I hope you feast on many more pesto lasagnas.

I love eating pesto in winter--Leslie, the brains of the outfit, starts freezing basil in August. She has a much better imagination than I do. In August, I cannot fathom why anyone would save anything.

Leslie said...

"In August, I cannot fathom why anyone would save anything."

Well, I think it takes great imagination to save seeds in the fall, and then stick them in dirt under lights in the basement before winter is over.