August 15, 2019 – Joemma Beach State Park – Gig Harbor, WA
Humans, like cats, are creatures of habit. We may succeed in breaking those we detest, but we quickly form new ones to take their place. Every morning, while drinking my coffee, I go online to check the tide tables—low tides are best for beachcombing, when the sand bars are exposed. We’ve been to a lot of beaches, including Ocean Shores and Westport, but the Key Peninsula beaches are the best we’ve found for beachcombing. Joemma Beach State Park is beautiful, cheap, and relatively unknown to travelers. Best of all, it’s a no-reservation campsite. That means we can stay for the 10-day high-season limit during July and August, peak seasons for camping, while reservation-only parks like Dash Point are booked way in advance for the weekends.
Yesterday, about an hour before low tide, I set off for the beach with Loki. I would say that I took him, but in reality, he took me. He’s gotten into the bad habit of pulling and I’m trying my hardest to break him of it. No doubt he wondered why I was taking him on such a strange walk, zig-zagging back and forth over sand and rocks from the waterline to the high-tide line. When I felt him yank the leash, I’d stop and wait about 20 seconds, then continue with the “heel” command. After an hour of this, I was exhausted, and he was starting to tire. The method seemed to be working, but it could have just been the fatigue.
When Loki’s feet touch the water, he wants to run. Maybe it’s the nature of the breed. One day I was beachcombing, up to my ankles in seaweed sludge when he decided to take off. I’d neglected to shorten his leash, so by the time he hit the end of the line the force was equal to ten dogs. My body went forward, face-first, into a mix of ocean water and slimy seaweed. As I pulled myself up, looking no doubt like the creature from the black lagoon, I pulled out every swear word from my vast repertoire and threw them at Loki. Now I keep the leash short.
I like to beach comb the right side of the beach where I’ve found most of the sea glass. Somewhere, underwater, there’s a seemingly endless supply of vintage glass bottles. We like to think they come from Joe and Emma Smith, who lived near the beach from 1917 to 1932. Maybe it was their trash pile which has since been covered by the encroaching sea. Though glass bottles were much sturdier back then, they rarely survive intact from the ocean to the beach, so I was thrilled to find an old, barnacle-encrusted ink bottle yesterday all in one piece. As I ran my fingers over its beautiful ridges, I imagined it sitting on Emma’s desk, saw her carefully dipping a pen in the ink, writing a letter to faraway relatives about the beauty of the beach that would later be named after her.
Four days ago, we left our plum-infested campsite at Dash Point State Park. If we thought we could leave without Ranger Danger’s habitual hassling, we were wrong. We like to use scavenged pallets for firewood, it saves a ton of money, but they need to be sawed up a bit first. The night before we left, Brent hooked up the saw to our portable battery and proceeded to dismember the pallet. Ranger Danger, a wisp of a man, with a severe Napoleon complex, marched over to our campsite, flashlight in hand. “I could hear that noise all the way down by the restrooms. I know it’s not quiet time yet, but it’s still annoying to your neighbors.” Brent sounded contrite as he politely apologized. The ranger’s next statement left us puzzled—we both swore he said, “You know, it’s against the rules to burn inter-dimensional firewood,” but of course that made no sense. We nodded our heads and tried to look serious as he walked off into the sunset.
Because there are a limited number of state parks in the vicinity of Seattle, we tend to run into the same “houseless” folks repeatedly. Melissa looks to be in her early 30s. She’s beautiful, but I’m sure she doesn’t think of herself that way. I can tell by the way she talks that she’s used to being put down, and her boyfriend Ryan is one of many who have mistreated her. She drinks to ease the pain and it’s not unusual for her to down a pint of hard alcohol in one night. Why she stays with Ryan is beyond me. A few weeks back, we ran into them at Joemma Beach and her face was horribly swollen. They both joked about it… “I was practicing my spin kick and accidentally kicked her in the face,” said Ryan, but they repeated the story so many times, we knew it wasn’t true. It’s a sad story, one of many I’ve heard in the last 6 months. He quit drinking a week ago, but his critical comments when Melissa is around tell me it hasn’t made a difference. Habits are hard to break, especially the bad ones.
Brent started his work assignment today, and I was reminded how I hate waking up at 5:00 am to the sound of an alarm. Not to mention negotiating the hoards of cars on the freeway to get to Seattle. But we made it on time and that’s all that matters, I guess. Day one of five, then we’ll be free to leave for Arizona.
Brent is a creative guy, especially when he’s stoned. One time, back in the winter, he emerged from the cold air into the warmth of our tent. “I think I saw a polecat out there…,” he said, and I took him seriously at first. “…but it was too small for a polecat, so it must’ve been a pole kitten.” The other night, when I thought he was sleeping, he tenderly expressed his affection, “You’re on my heart hook,” he whispered sleepily, and I smiled.
Last night, we slept in the back of the truck in the parking lot of the Auburn Walmart. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. It was warm night, and I reached over to slide open the window. It made a strange squeaking noise, unlike anything I’ve heard before. Brent raised his head from the pillow. “Holy shit, did you just step on an ostrich?” Yep, he has a weird sense of humor, but I love it.