I never understood the tides until I moved to the ocean. I knew there was high tide and low tide, but I didn’t realize that low tide could at times be very, very low and other times be only sort of low. Since there is a sandbar that extends several hundred yards out from the water edge behind our house, we can judge how low the low tide really is on any given day by how much of the sandbar is showing. Sometimes an extremely low tide aligns with an afternoon hour and Peter’s day off. When this happens it is time to explore.
That is how I ended up stranded, barefoot, in the middle of a large stretch of sharp, broken sea shells while Matthew sat on my hip wiggling to reach his father a few yards ahead…
Peter had tired of exploring the sandbar last Friday and wanderlust struck. He took the kids with him to explore the area left of our sandbar, a place we had yet to investigate. Unfortunately there were two kids left on shore (they decided too late to participate). I decided I would hold off dinner prep to take them out to join their father’s excursion. By the time I reached the edge of the sandbar to hand off the kids, Peter was all the way across. Having already pointed out the adventure their brothers and sisters were having, there was no easy way out: I was crossing the bay with Kirsti and Matthew in tow, still wearing my regular clothes.
As soon as we stepped off the sandbar we noticed the water turned a reddish hue. You might think metal oxidation or red algae, but my mind went directly to blood in the water. “Directly” does not always equate with “immediately” in my brain, so we were in water past my knees before the gruesome thought struck. A few more steps and I was busy trying to recall if I knew the water depth a shark needed to swim. Hadn’t I heard somewhere it was pretty shallow? Unlike the clear water directly around the sandbar, this water was opaque. We were now up to mid-thigh (did I mention I was not in my swimsuit?) in red, possibly blood tainted, water where we couldn’t see our own feet (much less if anything swimming toward us). Memories of watching Jaws as a child flashed before my eyes.
We were already half way across the bay and I figured there was a shorter walk to shallow water ahead than behind us, so we continued forward. Peter and the rest of the kids had wandered up and down the far beach and were slowly making their way back to the return point. Matthew sat on my hip and Kirsti grasped my hand (I didn’t share my irrational fears with her, but she was smart enough to be freaked out on her own). Just as Peter noticed we were crossing, we hit the shells.
Take hard shells and break them, leaving them strewn across several yards, many layers deep. Hide your feet to prevent a visual of where you’re stepping and try to walk across. Doesn’t that sound like fun? But we were nearly across the bay and had reached shin height, semi-transparent water. Given the choice of turning around and crossing the deep, reddish, monster filled water or walking across broken shells barefoot, I choose the shells. The top of my arches still ache as I type this. We met the rest of the family half way across the shell covered sand and we gingerly tiptoed our way across the last several yards. We finally hit tide-uncovered sand that could be followed back around to our own dear soft sanded beach.
The moral of this story? There are many: invest in water shoes, be wary of Peter’s spontaneous adventures, wear a swimsuit whenever you plan on entering the ocean, and don’t let the kids watch Jaws until we are finished leasing a house just off the ocean.