Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bringing home the beach

When the thermometer doesn't even touch 40 degrees, and a determined 20 mile an hour wind underscores the point, Rodney and I stay home from the beach. Which we hate, it being Saturday. Still, here's a reminder of what waits there for us. And of course it's always fun to look at the fossils we've gathered in the couple of years since we started, well, gathering. We're not sophisticated enough to think of ourselves as collectors. The truth is we didn't realized we'd been assembling bits of ancient history until a couple of years ago, though Rodney has found and kept boxes and bags and film cannisters full of sharks' teeth since he was a small boy. I hate to tell you how many of those film cannisters I threw away. Live and learn.

Completely by accident, this is how we learned: I was visiting my friend Suzanne's office and noticed a postcard pinned to her bulletin board, the kind of postcard you might get from a friend while they vacationed in Florida. It showed an assortment of sharks' teeth, from the very smallest to giant megalodon, even including an intact set of fossilized teeth an in enormous jaw, top and bottom. I said something like, "That's a nice postcard", adding offhandedly, "Rodney's got a jillion of those, I never seem able to see them, may I borrow your stapler," or words to that effect. She widened her eyes and a certain light touched her beautiful face. She said, "You do know they're all fossils, right? That they're all millions of years old?" I had no idea. But I can tell you this: I suddenly looked at the beach in a whole new way. And then something else happened to change my perspective: while walking down a white, sandy expanse of beach, I spotted a large black object about the size of the palm of my hand, scored with regular lines, rather like a piece of turtle shell. But it was clearly fossilized, both sides as glossy and shiny as something coal but so impervious to pressure it might almost have been coal, on its way to becoming a diamond.

Walking on the beach was now full of new possibilities. The long quiet walk, reflecting, meditating, simply being, was one option. Taking the dogs along for fast-paced, wildly enthusiastic walks was an option. And now, with the bright sun and a glisten lent by the water, it was more and more possible for me to see the ancient teeth. Turned by the magic of Mother Earth into pieces resembling jewels far more than remnants of prosaic things like teeth or bones, my fascination began to grow.

And though my fascination far outstripped my knowledge, the loose confederation of beach people again surprised me. "That Lady With the Little Blonde Daughter", it turned out, was called Allie, was also a collector, knew a great deal, and was at once humble about and generous with her knowledge. "Whale bone," she said. "And that's a drum fish tooth, oh, and that looks like verterbrae." She referred us to a good field guide, told us about a gem show she'd attended the previous winter where she learned LOTS.

One of the things I showed her was the multi-colored shark tooth shown in the middle on the left, also pictured (in that last photo) next to my foot so you can see the size. The group shot was taken by Rodney today as we looked over some of what's becoming our collection, yearning for one of those walks we've come to love. Perhaps tomorrow. I do have that pink scarf and hat Lis crocheted, and 9 or 10 jackets I could wear. The concentration called for by his metal detector often serves as an excellent medication for Rodney, although that, my dears, is a tale for another blog.

Stay warm, dears. It's a fine evening to have the oven turned on. If you feel like a rich dinner, homemade macaroni and cheese gives you a fine excuse to set the oven about about 325 and leave it on for an hour or more. I use some kind of pasta like penne or curly shells, a place for the cheese to hide itself and warm your mouth. Cook about 3/4 of a pound of it to the stage before al dente, when it's still really too crunchy to be ready to eat. Layer it in a 9" x 12" baking dish with whatever cheese you like. Sharp cheddar is good, if your people like it. A layer of pasta, a layer of cheese and repeat. Salt and pepper as you go. You can even use a reduced-fat cheese, if you like. Beat together about 4 eggs, depending on their size, and add milk (here again, skim milk helps reduce the fat, but you can use what you have) til you have about 2-1/2 cups of liquid; pour this evenly over the macaroni. Bake until all the liquid is taken up and the top is lightly browned. It's lovely with a romaine and Granny Smith apple salad. And you can leave the oven door open so that last warm breath fills your kitchen.


  1. You know, in the thousands of miles I have probably walked on the beach in my lifetime, both Atlantic and Gulf, not to mention Caribbean, I have never found one shark's tooth. I have often wondered at this. Why? I do not know.

  2. I can only say that I spent many years walking beaches with never the first glimmer that I was walking over the treasures of fossils I must have. Rodney taught me the trick of letting the sun and water do the work for you, helping your eyes pick them out. Of course, this only works when you can put your toes into the water without having them instantly turn black and fall off. :)


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