Tuesday, July 12, 2005

One Summer's Day in 1999

Carson Beach, Dorchester Bay, Massachusetts. The story of a tangled crab, moon jellyfish rising, the stones of negativity, butterflies rebirthed from a velvet pouch, and a confluence of energies to save the Earth....

Journal excerpt, July 13, 1999 (reporting events of July 11)

At an outdoor cafe by the public bath house, we chowed down on hotdogs -- chips for Mary, ice cream for me. We were at low tide. Out by the pier, a man stood carefully on the mud and gravel with its coating of clams and snails, and carefully escorted jellyfish back to the sea with a stick. Mary and I had met up with a man, perhaps aged around 30: ponytail, steel-toed boots, tattoo on his right arm. Blue tinted sunglasses, small oval lenses, "John Lennon style."

He showed us a small yellow piece of citronite, the size of the top joint of my thumb. Told us the jellyfish -- which had been washed up and dying almost as high as the gazebo -- were probably moon jellyfish (confirmed by my later check on the Web. The clover shape inside their translucent bodies makes up their gonads).

From the pier, Mary and I spotted a baseball-sized crab flailing one of its claws as the water receded from it. At first we thought that it was impaled on a rusted bike pedal assembly. We made our way down below, to the pylons, where Mary saw that it was not impaled but lashed to the metal by a tangled fishing line. Carefully, she untangled the line and freed the crab, then tossed it into the water. It was a handsome thing, bright and orange and robust. We watched it shovel food into its mouth, then marveled at the throng of tiny hermit crabs scuttling by our feet.

A loud splash resounded off to the side.

Mary yelled, "Cut that out!"

There had been a splash earlier. I wondered if it had been made by one of the bass, leaping in the bay. But whatever caused the splash had come from ashore, not from below.

Numerous moon jellyfish floated in the shallow water by the pier, one hemmed in by detritus: old rusted bicycle, disintegrating chair. Some children had come to inspect the pylons as well -- a prepubescent boy (8?) and girl (10?) and an adolescent girl (12, 13?) just beginning to curve into a woman's shape. The younger girl stepped carefully under the pylons, walking around the snails and clams, fascinated. Called back to the others, "I'm not scared!" when the boy whimpered at the mud and the strange creatures. The older girl stayed with the boy, vigilant.

I retreated to sit against the bouldered dome that led to the grass and watched as Mary carefully gathered fishing twine. The pier was above and to my left. Down it a woman walked dreamily, her black gauze dress lifting in the wind. She was one of a group of people -- men and women, though mostly women -- who'd been sitting and meditating by the gazebo, looking out to sea. Unusual, I thought, to see so many people (almost all of them) dressed in black on this warm summer day.

When the woman on the pier reached its end she turned around, away from the bay. She faced the group and flung a rock over her right shoulder, out to sea. It fell with a resounding splash.

Mary, down below, called, "Cut it out!"

I called forward to her, "I think it's a ritual of some sort." I asked the woman up above what was happening. "A ritual," she said.

Mary joined me as I made my way up the rocks to the group sitting at the gazebo. Their leader was a large woman dressed entirely in black, her eyes heavily made up with dark shades. Black long hair. Many necklaces, a ring on each finger. A cellular phone.

I asked her if there was a reason this ritual was being performed at low tide.

"Yes," she said. "So the rocks won't get carried out to sea but will sink into the earth." She explained, "We put all the negativity of the world into these rocks, and then we throw them out to sea, to rid the world of evil. We are all witches," she continued, "but not bad witches."

"Wiccan," I said.

"Exactly. We try to save the Earth, our Mother."

Mary and I explained that during the low tide, there are many forms of life in the mud that could be killed or harmed by falling rocks, not to mention the people who walk out upon the mud flats, including children. The group leader called to the next person to throw her rock as far out into the water as she could.

I mentioned that out of respect for the Earth and its creatures, Mary had just rescued a crab that had gotten tangled in discarded fishing line. By way of example, Mary and I began to pick up the garbage around the gazebo: beer cans, bottle tops, broken glass. I noticed a couple of desiccated crabs, dried-out husks. We desposited the first installment of trash, including many firecracker casings left over from the Fourth of July.

One woman we spoke with wore a pentacle, a triskelion, and a pendant of the Snake Goddess of Crete. Most of the members were so adorned in variations and permutations of New Age jewelry. The man with the Kokopelli tattoo seemed to be part of the group. Another member and I shared text references: Starhawk, Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, Merlin Stone's When God Was A Woman, Frazier's The Golden Bough, Graves's The White Goddess.

The group leader was dispensing stones from a purple velvet pouch. Unlike the negativity rocks -- some of which still formed a small cairn by the gazebo -- these were pieces of tigereye embossed with a gold-painted butterfly. She offered one to me as well, and to Mary, for the work that we were doing to save the Earth.

I at first declined, saying to save it for the next person who joins the group. That this way, less of the stone needs to be mined out of the earth. "I'll carry it with me here," I said, pointing to my heart.

"Oh, take it -- I've got plenty of them," she said. Missing the point. I took it, and it sits on my own home altar. Mary's is on the stove.

The butterfly-in-the-stone symbolized reincarnation for the group. Mary, studying the desiccated crabs, suggested to me that we gather up the remains and return them to the sea, so that they can serve as food. Another kind of reincarnation. I thought it was a great idea.

As I left crab pieces in a free-flowing stream, I saw Mary instruct a young girl -- first from the pier, then from the rocks below -- about the hermit crabs by the girl's feet, then about why it was important to remove the nearby fishing line. They proceeded to disentangle it, joined soon by a boy on the mud flats.


Blogger twila said...

What a great story! You and Mary, doing what you can, positioned next to the wicca group. Funny and sad at the same time.

1:58 PM  

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