Moon and Starfish


Philosophy begins in wonder ~ Plato

Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn’t happen. ~ Steven Wright

It was still dark outside when my alarm sounded this morning. Usually, when on vacation, I don’t use the alarm unless I have a plane to catch. Today, though, I wanted to catch the full moon setting, the low tide, and sunrise, just before 7 am.

The sky was just beginning to lighten when I walked out on the beach, wondering if my fleece jacket would be warm enough. The moon was glowing in the northwestern sky, looking like a giant Japanese lantern hanging over Sanibel. In Colonial America, the January moon was called the Winter Moon; the Cherokees called it the Cold Moon; the Celts, the Quiet Moon; and the English referred to it as the Wolf Moon. On a subtropical beach, just before a warm winter day, only the Celts seemed to have captured this particular January moon.

January Full Moon: Cold, Quiet, Wolf

I turned towards the south and headed towards the shoreline. The tide would still be moving out for another 20 minutes. The shorebirds had positioned themselves at the very edge of the water; the little squeaky sandpipers running when a wave reached back towards the sand; the larger terns merely lifting one webbed foot as if they couldn’t be bothered. Some of the more industrious birds bobbed for fish or cracked open shells. The less energetic ones merely lowered their heads into the surf, as if they had already had their fill at the morning tidepool buffet.

Cockles: Not a Hard Shell to Crack

As I walked gently through the blubbery sand, I looked at all of the creatures left behind by the retreating waves. I don’t know how they survive, or even if. Are the ones that are exposed by the tide the ones who are living their last moments? Or will they be rescued when the tide pushes back towards the beach, the water trying to reclaim its rightful inheritance and dominion over the planet? I am witness to the struggle near my feet: a starfish has left tracks in the sand; a whelk seems destined for someone’s shell collection — why I think would anyone want one of these? how out-of-place would it be sitting on a shelf or in a basket, bereft of sand and salt and the smell of the sea? — when the shell’s inhabitant extends itself out. A quiet wave washes in and removes more sand from beneath the shell. The mollusk continues to show itself. Suddenly I realize that it is righting itself, repositioning in order to burrow further down into the wet sand. I turn it over with my foot to look at it once again, but immediately feel guilty for doing so. I pick it up and loft it towards the sea. You’ll live to swim another day I think, and then wonder, noticing that the beach is beginning to be populated with walkers and bikers, if I said the words aloud. Later, when reading about the sea creatures I photographed, I learned that the word whelk may have come from the Proto-Indo-European root for “turn or revolve”. It is as fitting, I decide, as calling them gastropods, the larger classification of this sea snail. I wonder about that word too, and the very idea of a “stomach-foot”: is it the ultimate in efficient design to have one appendix to capture your prey, to eat and to move?

Star paths

Left by the tide

Not Quite High and Dry

Turn, Turn, Turn

I didn’t wander too far down the beach before the sun started to rise. I now had more light to shoot, but the bright, rising sun, still low on the horizon brings other photographic challenges. I turned to head the other direction. Although I knew the time of moonset, it surprised me that the moon had retreated so quickly. I see a few more interesting creatures, mostly sea anemones and heart cockles. I click away, happy that the sun is bouncing off of the pearly nacre, in awe of what marvelous mysteries the sea has deposited at my feet this morning.

Shiny Sand Scoop

Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. ~Annie Leibovitz

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~ William Shakespeare

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3 responses to “Moon and Starfish

  1. Oops. The gastropod identified above is a Florida Fighting Conch, not a whelk.

  2. Anne really beautiful