Crows, Moon Snails, and Love
July 9, 2019 – Penrose State Park, WA
This morning I woke to the loud squawking of crows. I’m sure they talk to each other and there are times when I think I understand them. According to all I’ve read, they’re intelligent creatures and experience tells me it’s true. A few weeks ago, we left an unopened bag of chips on the picnic table while we set off to do our beachcombing. I knew, as we headed back, that they’d found our stuff. When we approached the table, I heard the crow in the tree above us screech a warning. “They’re coming back… get out of there!” His friends, feasting on the bag of chips they’d managed to open, heeded the warning and took off flapping their wings.
For the fourth day in a row, Brent is not himself. I look into his eyes and I see he’s suffering. He doesn’t want to beachcomb, doesn’t want to work on his shells and rocks. Yesterday, when he woke up, the first thing on his mind was beer. When it ran out later that day, he crawled into bed. It’s not something I’m used to, and I hope I never have to deal with it again. For several years he’s been taking a drug called lyrica that was prescribed to treat his fibromyalgia. Suddenly, with no warning, the doctor refused to refill his prescription, saying the insurance company hadn’t approved it. You’re kidding, I thought to myself. July 4th weekend, and no way to resolve the situation until Monday.
Withdrawal set in quickly—sweating, lethargy, and pain. He’d changed from an active, go-getter, to a passive, lethargic shell of a man. All he wanted to do was drink and sleep. Yesterday he called his insurance company, and they said it had to do with changing his policy, but that was three months ago. It just didn’t make sense to me. On Sunday, we had to pack up camp since we’d reached our ten-day limit. Fortunately, we were moving just a few miles down the road, because all Brent could do was pick up a few things—the rest was up to me. The prescription should be filled in the next couple of days—meanwhile, we’ll have to deal with it.
The Fourth of July brought a hoard of campers to Joemma Beach, and every site was full. Across from us were Lamont, Misty, and their son Leo, whose face I rarely saw. When he wasn’t in the trailer, he sat huddled around the campfire, scarf pulled up over his face like something out of Star Wars. It was a yearly ritual for the couple, who come to Joemma every year for the Fourth. When they pulled in, Lamont came over to introduce himself and to buy one of the walking sticks Brent had made from driftwood.
The night before the Fourth, we sat around the fire with the couple, drinking beer and trading stories. Later, after one glass of wine too many, I got into a spat with Brent and Misty tried her best to patch things up. She put her arm around my shoulder as we walked together to the bathroom, trying to reassure me. “He really cares for you, you know. I can tell by the way he talked about you when you were gone.” (I was in Oregon visiting my daughter). “Lamont and I have been together for ten years now. We’ve had our ups and downs—still do. It’s not easy, but I guarantee if you stay with Brent it’ll be worth it.” We neared the campfire and she lowered her voice, conspiratorially. “Lamont and I fight like cats and dogs. One time I broke his arm and another time I messed up his kneecap. But it’s all good.” Holy shit, I thought to myself… and I thought I had problems. You don’t want to mess with this woman. Yep, we’ve met some interesting people in State Parks.
We’ve taken a temporary break from working on shell designs. It’s not worth getting everything out for three days, then putting it back again. Yesterday I beachcombed by myself—walked out on the sandbar that’s exposed during low tide. It’s impossible to see everything at once, the naked eye can only pick out so much among the jumble of rocks and shells. I try to zig-zag while looking for one specific thing, otherwise my brain goes crazy—kind of like life, there are a million things that can distract you along the way, but if you stay focused you’re more likely to find what you’re searching for. Yesterday it was moon snails, my favorites, and I found six of them.
There aren’t a lot of beachcombers, and they typically look for sand dollars, ignoring the moon snails since most are unaware they exist. Often the shells are covered with seaweed or disguised as rocks, but we can pick them out by their spiral shape and distinctive eyes. Even the fragments are beautiful—they break into unique shapes and the eye part, being the strongest, generally stays intact.
So here we are, waiting for Brent’s prescription to be filled so life can return to normal. But “normal” has changed. I can pinpoint the day I let down the walls. It was July 5th and I’d returned from visiting a friend. I realized how much I missed Brent, how much I loved him. For the longest time I resisted–the more I resisted, the more he pushed back. It was a silent (sometimes not so silent) battle, and I’m happy it’s over. In a couple of days we’re driving down to meet friends in Oregon, and I’m excited to bring Brent into my life.