Coast Chronicles: The week that was

On Earth Day, a group of citizens braved the weather to show their support for science in a demonstration outside the Astoria Post Office (and many other places around the world).

The sun came out again. Or maybe we say the clouds parted, since, theoretically, the sun does rise every morning. I’ll praise whoever or whatever I need to praise in order to have the sun arrive for coffee time in the morning. In fact — I hope you didn’t miss it — for one entire day last week the sun shown from morning ‘til night, which meant, of course, that it’s time to mow.

The spring mowing ritual is this — go to Jack’s to fill the gas can; look the mower over to see what shape it’s in; notice that, once again, you’ve forgotten to empty the old gas from last year; top-off the mower gas tank and cross your fingers. Choke, pull rope, spark, engage — eureka!

It was sort of fun to start the new mowing season, though because of my laissez-faire gardening habits, each year I have more moss, more dandelions, more wild strawberries, and less grass. I also have many more bluebells and who-knows-what wild things flourishing unbidden in my yard. So, due to a variety of factors, the margins of my mowing borders creep closer and closer together. Maybe this year I’ll just cut a few paths here and there: one to the bird feeder and one to the compost bin.

Then, oh my goodness, clamming began. I’ve written before about my early clamming days in the ‘50s when dad would hustle us out of bed in the pitch dark to drive up the beach to some exact mileage pin-pointed by the folks at Sportsman’s Cannery. (They always knew where the best and biggest clams had come in from the day before.) In those days, the limit was 36 clams, so that meant a heap of cleaning in the afternoon and a fried clam feast in the evening.

This past week, a friend and I drove up to Oysterville because the Ocean Park beach approach looked dicey (there was already somebody stuck in the sand). By the time we arrived, the early sun had changed its mind. No matter. Out we went with our net bags, our high boots and clam shovels. (I’m a purist — no guns for me.)

The clams weren’t showing in the usual way and, though a couple brave fellows waded waist-deep out to a bar just appearing to dig on new ground, I chose to stay on the inner shore. While everybody was stomping around and whacking the sand with their various digging implements, I stood quietly and watched the waves, in a meditative mood. The morning was blue-gray and violet — stunning. Looking carefully I began to see just the tiniest perturbations in the sand as the waves receded. When they reached their maximal pull-back (so I’d have more time before the next wave), I’d put my shovel in. Yup, a big hole appeared as the clam dived. One more shovel-full and down on bended knee; then a dig to the death. Because my grip of index finger and thumb is not what it used to be, I let a couple fellers go (ladies or gentlemen, how do you sex a clam?), “OK, you bested me — go in peace and live another day.”

On our way back to the car we saw a couple put a clam back into the sand, laughing, as it tried to dig back home. I wanted to call in one of the Big Omnipotent and Rageful Gods to mess with them. Torturing what we kill to eat is wrong. Even a clam has a little clammy life. I’m more apt to lean in to the Chinookan ways — blessing the creatures that will end up on my plate.

Last week, another upside-the-head reminder of how much we should be grateful for came on the day one poor soul clipped a power pole. Many of us had 13-plus hours of no electricity. (One woman was airlifted off the Peninsula.)

Charge the computer? — nope. Use your landline? — nope. Vacuum? — not today. I lit candles all around the house and eventually managed to find my headlamp so I could read in bed. But it’s just odd how often I went for something — hot water for coffee, or a piece of toast — and had to remind myself, again, no power. Even the dog was puzzled. How different life must have been for our sturdy pioneer grandparents.

There was one surprising revelation. I usually leave an outside light on as do many folks in my neighborhood; and an additional motion light in the driveway is often triggered by deer or raccoon. But on this night, it was absolutely and totally black. I snuggled into my down covers and fell into a deep sleep uninterrupted until early morning — nearly unheard of. We know that computer screens, bluish in tone, can de-syncopate one’s circadian rhythms. This was a perfect illustration of the good darkness can do. Now I’m turning off the outdoor lights before bed and have been dampening all those indoor zombie-lights (digital clocks, microwave, toothbrush), along with a new personal ultimatum — no Facebook before bed, all in the service of a better, deeper sleep.

And last, but certainly not least, we honored Earth Day by marching for science. I sputtered in disbelief when our president said, “Rigorous science is critical to my administration.” (According to Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, “climate change-related programs are a waste of your money.”) Trump further stated, “My administration is committed to keeping our air and water clean, to preserving our forests, lakes, and open spaces, and to protecting endangered species.” You could have fooled me.

This is the height of hypocrisy. I cite just one of hundreds of examples we could use to counter his double-speak. As Timothy Egan reports in the New York Times ( “One of the first things this administration did was to rescind a government proposal to ban a pesticide used on much of the fresh food we eat — a chemical compound, chlorpyrifos, found to be harmful to the brain and nervous system of children. This move didn’t get a lot of attention. But when you’re throwing out a half-dozen major lies and missteps a day, it’s tough to compete for airtime.” New studies show a link between chlorpyrifos and lower IQ in children (

We the people must demand that our environment be safe for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and beyond. It’s within our power, as many people all over the world illustrated on Earth Day. In order to support Mother Nature, we must support the scientists who provide the data we need to understand what is safe and what is harmful to us and all our planet’s creatures. Here endeth the week that was.

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