Lobster Rolls by the Sea

Last night the Crankee Yankee and I took off for an early supper. We have been on a mission to try out all the lobster rolls in all the restaurants along the coast; so far we’ve sampled four.

Now you wouldn’t think that a *lobster roll could be very different from place to place, but it is. Just as soon as we hit the last seafood shack and try that last lobster roll, I’ll post the results.

But more than the hunt for the perfect lobster roll is the time we have together doing our lobster roll research. For example, last evening was purely beautiful; low humidity in the mid-70s, with a periwinkle blue sky above full of scudding white clouds and seagulls calling overhead.

We rode along, cracking terrible jokes from the third grade level and laughing our heads off. There were loads of people out and about; on the beach, strolling along the sidewalks eating ice cream, biking, surfing, or just sitting on the rocks, taking in the view.

The air was full of summer scents; sun tan oil, seaweed, fried food, the somehow intoxicating smell of low tide. This unique smell comes from the various sediments full of micro-organisms that produce a strong sulfur odor. Most everyone just refers to it as the scent of the “clam flats.” (We just call it the “clam farts.”)

I haven’t worn perfume in decades, but if anyone could make a perfume that smelled like that, I’d wear it every day—yup, even if I smelled like the clam farts.

I grew up thinking that all of the oceans of the world were just like the Atlantic ocean; rough, cold, and delighting in smashing sea shells to bits (so that you rarely found anything whole), freezing your feet and legs, and generally being a real jerk. The Atlantic ocean dares you to surf in it and survive, and it sneakily sets up rip tides that can entrap you before you know it.

This gruff and unfriendly ocean might grudgingly let you have a few tumbled periwinkle shells, a slipper shell or two, or even a scuffed moon snail shell. More likely you would find bits and pieces of shells, a few crab claws and blue mussel halves, and the usual battered purple and white quohog shells.

If the Atlantic ocean was a person, it would be a wealthy but stingy and crabby old man with a bad attitude on people and life in general.

When I finally visited the Pacific ocean, it was as warm and friendly as a new puppy. The water was soothing and inviting, and the waves were gentle and glassy blue-green. There were great riches of whole sand dollars, whelks, olive shells, angel wings, limpets, sea fans, cone shells, and brightly colored coquinas strewn lavishly on the sand as from a billionaire’s hand.

Now if the Pacific ocean was a person, it would be a really fun aunt who loves to surprise you with extravagant gifts, lunches at fabulous restaurants, and who would give you the diamonds off her fingers just to please you.

I loved the Pacific ocean, but being a northerner, it seemed more a fantasy than the “real” ocean I was used to, crabby and cantankerous though it may be.

But any ocean is a good ocean. There is something about it that draws us in, even when we know that there are creatures in there large enough to swallow us whole. It may be that the pulse of the surf matches the pulse of our hearts. It could be the mystery of all that lives in the vast oceans of the world, or the fact that we still discovering new life in them.

Or it could just be the experience of eating a really good lobster roll by the sea.

*My fairly recent post called “Yelpers” explains in detail what a good lobster roll should be; check it out.

Gifts From the Sea

No, this isn’t a sequel to Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s marvelous book, “Gifts From the Sea.” It is about the particular gifts that the sea gives to us.

A dear friend of mine and I met yesterday at an ocean-side restaurant. We met years ago as little girls going to camp for the first time, and became fast friends. Years went by, we grew up, got married, had families and life went on. A few years ago we reconnected, and have been enjoying occasional get-togethers since then.

The day began cloudy and coolish, and threatening rain. By the time we finished lunch, the sun had come out to stay. We walked to our cars, looked at the walkway to the ocean and decided to walk along the beach. The sea was absolutely gorgeous; deep sapphire blue in the depths, and sunlit blue-green in the shallows.

The waves were pretty active for our old cold Atlantic ocean. There were delicate streamers of seaweed, pebbles and broken seashells strewn up and down the wet sand. We looked for beach glass (which sadly has become harder to find these days, plastic being so prevalent) and actually found some!

There was of course the ubiquitous beer bottle brown, but also pale aqua, green and milky white. Each bit was welcomed with squeals of delight. We chatted as we walked along, breathing in the salty air. I was talking about my dad and how I wished that we had had more time with him.

We both recalled our dads and the impact they made on our lives. We also talked about mothers and the ways mothers and daughters interact with each other. It’s a fine dance when we become adults; we still keep our respect for our parents, but we don’t always agree with them.

We miss them when they are gone, and realize that we now are the “elders” of our families. Still we feel in our hearts like the children we once were, when parents were the rule of law and we were their disciples. I was saying to my friend how I would have liked more time with Dad; I wished to be able to tell him I loved him one more time.

I looked down at the sand, and there was a flat stone in the exact shape of a heart. (Of course I picked it up and brought it home.) I felt it was a message of love from both my parents; a gift of knowing that they are together again and are happy. We both exclaimed over our joined belief that there are “no coincidences.”

That day near the ocean with my friend comforted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Sorrow comes to us all as humans; it’s part of life. But there is also the sweetness of love and friendship, surprises and awakenings, and always, those gifts from the sea.


By the Sea

Last night the Crankee Yankee and I took a drive by the ocean. We had been out to dinner at one of our favorite places for seafood, and, since it was such a beautiful and warm evening, we took a drive by the ocean.

It was one of those days that I wish I was an artist and could paint what I saw. The sky met the ocean in gorgeous pastels: soft periwinkle blue, pale aqua, and rose gold. There was a silvery mist along the beach that added to the muted marriage of all those colors.

We stopped at of those one-hour parking spots by the side of the road. The Crankee Yankee knows that any chance I get to walk around on the rocks by the ocean, I will. These days I am more careful about where I walk, and avoid the slippery seaweed-covered rocks. But it never takes away the young wonder I always feel when I am near the ocean.

I have collected sea glass for years now, but these days, sadly, there isn’t much of it around. Since plastic has pretty much replaced glass, all those gemmy bits of glass have become thin on the ground.

However, it was heavenly to walk around on the rocks and enjoy the salty air in my face. The Atlantic ocean is cold and forbidding, but it will still occasionally toss a treasure or two up on the beach. Most of the shells that land there are broken, but now and then you may find a whole slipper shell, whelk or even a sand dollar.

Before I walked back to the car, I watched a young father and his little girl as they walked on the beach, heads down to see what the ocean might have left there. The little ran ahead of her father, bent down and picked something up. She ran back to her dad, yelling, “Daddy! Look! It’s a shell, a whole angel wing!

I thought, “good for you, kiddo—keep finding treasure where you can.”