We caught the noonday tide last Sunday at the top of its run and waded out with it. At low tide, on calm days, the water starting inward is fairly clear, but it's already carrying bits of weed from further out, and it scours the beach as it races in; by the time it reaches shore, it can be a thick soup of blackened eelgrass fragments and other muck. But then it sits for a few minutes, the gunk settles, and, if the wind hasn't whipped up the waves, the freshly cleaned water eases on out, as transparent as melted glass.
On a day like this, you can see the individual grains of sand under ankle-deep water.
|Wormholes, a snail, and dwarf eelgrass (Zostera japonica) blades.|
|A snail trail, undisturbed by the flowing water.|
And this dwarf eelgrass stands up around our legs, instead of lying down in a mat, as we usually see it.
|A thick bed of eelgrass, under about 8 inches of water. Like an old-fashioned window, settled over many decades, the water distorts the view in spots.|
|A worm volcano, with its poop cap.|
|Clamshell and wave marks from our feet.|
We caught up to this medium-sized crab on a bare patch that would be a sandbar a bit later on. He was heading leisurely out to shelter in the larger eelgrass beds, where the sand is softer and never dries out. Quite a ways to go, but there was time enough.
Laurie was trying to keep up with him and take his photo, but he kept moving away, so I got downstream of him, and stretched out a foot to slow him down. "Aha!" he thought; "Shelter from that horrible man!" and scuttled under my foot.
I could feel him, through my shoe sole, snuggle in cozily, relaxing, then suddenly realize his mistake. He jerked back, pushing upwards against the foot (just in case I might decide to stomp him into the sand), backed out, and raised his pincers in self defence, or possibly challenge.
|Assessing his options. Flight or fight? Fight first!|
And when my foot stayed put, and didn't attack, he lowered his pincers and ran out to sea.