There’s an interesting relationship between nature and nostalgia. At times, it’s blatant and maybe even logical, like when woodlands become suburbs and it gives rise to some outcry because of one’s historical connection to the place. But the nostalgia for nature that catches my attention is the feeling of recognition I get when I come to a place that is so rawly beautiful, that I have absolutely no entitlement to, and yet I yearn for it like I’m reaching back into my memory.
I don’t know why this happens, but I am thinking of it now because I felt it this morning. For the first time in my life, I stood knee-deep in a tide pool on Oregon’s spectacularly desolate and thriving coast. I wish I’d brought my camera, but I didn’t, so excuse the brief but necessary description: black basalt crops of rock, pounding waves, ochre and green seagrass, light fog, and tidal pools full of shapes and textures that are impossible on land. What did it for me, though, was the moment I saw three fantastic squishy donut-shaped creatures that unfolded into flowering anemone sitting beside a fat sunset-colored starfish. It was the “Little Mermaid” and I was six again, except it was real and I was close enough to step on it. Nostalgia.
And by the way, I was harvesting mussels. When the low tide uncovers some of the basalt, it reveals acres of clinging mussels that live there because apparently they like being washed over by the tide twice daily. And with rubber gloves, rubber boots, and a good twist, you can harvest up to 72 a day with your three-day or annual permit. (As a ‘hunting-sport’ though, musseling is maybe a little too easy, and maybe I got a little carried away today, because it’s hard to eat 60 mussels in one evening).
But even the excesses of hopping around rocks plucking inanimate shelfish, while avoiding the incoming tide and pools of sea scum, felt like part of a childish recollection that certainly exists in part, but rather dormantly. The coast is becoming a playground I always thought was out there, in books and movies, but which I never thought I had the right to live in. It’s a beautiful revolving-door moment when something outside of your experience becomes strangely personal.