There have only been a few precious moments in adult life where I can remember the blissful perfection of just being. Yesterday was one of those days. Of course it’s possible I’ve been in that state many times but failed to recognize and appreciate the worry-free zone, the feeling like you are in the right place at the right time with all the stars and planets aligned in your favor, the universe pulling for you, with the wind at your back, and the sun shining warmly on your face. That was my yesterday.
I had some help, help in the recognition of my fine life. Jasper and I sat in the olive-tinted muck of low tide at Hood Canal. Sitting isn’t the typical clam stance, but the clams were plentiful and so close to the surface that I plopped in a puddle of mud and dug with a garden trowel. Chest waders provided for such luxury. Our heads were down when I heard a voice. The voice rang rich with the vibrato of several decades. I knew before looking up that the words belonged to a well-postured man in his seventies or eighties.
“Good afternoon, young lady. Having any luck?”
I gave the standard sportsman answer, even though I was having an amazing dig. “We’re catching a few.”
“And what exactly are you digging?” The steel-haired gentlemen leaned toward me as he spoke from his dry position on rocky substrate.
“Butter clams. Would you like to have a look?”
“Is your pup friendly?”
I gave a reassuring nod but gathered Jasper’s leash just in case. Jasper is friendly, but often too much so. I didn’t want to see muddy paw prints on the gentleman’s creased Chinos.
I’d planned to get up from my seated position and meet him halfway, but my butt was stuck in the mud. I wiggled back and forth gingerly, trying to avoid any embarrassing suction sounds while releasing the ample rounds. I made it to my knees but stopped to admire the gumption of cognac leather loafers moving through the skim of beach scum. The loafers were the expensive kind, supple, maybe handmade, and adorned with fancy tassels. The gentleman continued to march on, sacrificing his lovely footwear for conversation and the satisfaction of curiosity tamed.
His interest in my task and the ruining of good loafers humbled me. I held out a bucket brimming with over thirty clams, almost the daily limit of forty or ten pounds, whichever comes first.
“Well, I’d say you have more than a few.”
“Yes, it’s a very good day to be a clam digger.”
“How do you know where to dig?”
“Actually, I’m just learning that for myself. I do a lot of blind digging, but then I noticed these tiny holes close together in the sand.” I pointed to a patch of pencil-pokes. “If you scrape away the top 4 to 6 inches, you can feel around and find them.” I demonstrated on a fresh patch of holes and pulled up two squirting specimens just smallar than billiard balls. He stepped back a little.
“And what will you do with all of these? They look too big for steamer clams?”
“Oh no, they taste great steamed, and not tough at all. I soak them overnight in sea water to purge the sand from the edible portions. Then I toss them shell and all in a shallow pan with butter and garlic. I pour two glasses of Riesling, one for me and one over the clams before steaming.”
“Nothing tastes better than fresh clams.”
“You look as though you are as happy as clam in your puddle of mud.”
I felt my cheeks heat up. I was suddenly aware of how funny I must look. “It’s not a glamorous sport, but my dog and I have a good time.”
“I saw you smiling from the parking lot.”
“Really? I didn’t realize…”
“Yes, you’re beaming, absolutly radiating.” His eyes flooded with watery blue. “You must really love life.”
I blushed and looked away. “Hmm. I think you’re right. At least for the moment, I'm loving life.”