Friday, April 30, 2004

Caught a big ol' sculpin! Now I know where they are...

I think I've figured out the quickest and easiest way to kill a sculpin -- place it in a bucket of cold fresh water. Since it's a salt-water fish, it dies quickly of osmotic shock. Damnit, I am NOT going to behead or gut a fish that is still gasping! Did you know they have a crop, and swallow pebbles like a chicken?

The one yesterday was about 14 inches long, and I made a complete dog's breakfast of filleting it -- but don't matter, chunks of meat go good in chowder!

And I'm learning.

Yes, when I've worked my brains out on the computer, and I need rest for the evening's long hours of art, I take a break on the beach. Lying on the warm stones. Seagulls flying overhead, or eagles, or crows. Some big dog with his head in my lap, or making a stinky dog pillow under my head. The loon pair swimming within 20 feet to watch us because they are the nosiest animal on the planet (read Thoreau -- he used to play tag with them and hide-and-go seek). Listening to the loons sing to each other, watching the courtship dances. My feet propped under the pole stuck in the sand, for when a sculpin grabs the mussle bait and takes off with the pole for deep water -- it should wake me up in time to grab it... Fish for supper!

Ain't life hard?

Do you KNOW how much wood you can get into a VW bug? Or strapped on top?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Agate Hunting As A Blood Sport.

Agate hunting is supposed to be an old man's activity, right? Slow strolls down the beach, hour by hour, stopping now and again to flip a shiny pretty stone into a little bag or bottle. Right?

So how come agate hunting with DAN involves heading out to the beach when there are thundering waves about three feet taller than either one of us, racing to snatch agates back from the foaming surf, running like hell because ONE of us -- I won't say which one -- is not wearing her rubber boots. Straight up a loose gravel dune. Hoping the surf won't snatch her back into the undertow. Remembering what the local maps say about logs in the surf -- "beach logs can KILL." Praying there isn't one out there with her name on it, that will come in on the ninth wave (always the biggest), bounce off the reef, and cave her little pointed skull in.

But we got agates the size of pullet eggs, and one that has got to be carnelian, and some sard, and -- what do they call yellow agates? And something big and translucent the size of my palm, that, while we weren't sure if it was agate or not, sure passed the stress test for sugar agates. If in doubt if what you've got is agate or sugar agate -- put it on a rock, and use another rock as a hammer. An agate won't even be chipped. A sugar agate will shatter to glistening bits -- just like sugar.

And on top of that, the colors of the waves were glorious, just un-fucking-believeable. Turquoise, cobalt, teal-green, foam the color of snow and vanilla ice-cream. And when the sun went down in a mist of orange gold, the orange and purple and deep blue flooded out in peacock's-tail eyes of hue. It just made you stand and gasp.

And Buddha, the black 1/2-Lab - 1/2 Greyhound was helping by catching rocks, as usual. He can catch any rock thrown to him, but we prefer perfect little round ones, so he won't hurt his teeth.

The new term for a sugar agate is "Buddha Rock." As in -- "Oh, look, a Buddha Rock! Want it? Want it? Catch!" And Buddha flies up in the air in a sleek black arc and catches the rock on his tongue.

Buddha Rock. Sounds like a band.

So does Corpse Octopus -- but that's something that's going to be published later, on

One of these days we're going to have to figure out how to make jewelry out of all these agates.

Answered a letter to the Forks Forum (what? I'm making all my email do double-duty...):

"Dear -- "

"After reading your letter in the Forks Forum, and as a fellow writer, let me say "welcome" to the West West End. We just moved here in October 2003 - because we wanted THAT beach. We live up on Slip Point, and can't get enough of it.

Let me reassure you: whatever opinions people on the other side of the Great Water (Puget Sound) may have formed of this area, you have no reasons to fear.

Because I'm a member of the Clallam Bay/Sekiu Chamber of Commerce, the Clallam Bay website now has a listing for artists, writers and books. The place is loaded with artists and writers -- and they have all sorts of opinions. And they're not afraid to express them!

Like yourself, I drive a VW. But it's a 1970 beige bug. I keep swearing I'm going to buy a pick-up, but Honig has been hauling everything from wood scraps for the stove, to cedar shavings for the cats' litter boxes (am presently involved in an experiment I was requested to make, to see if cedar will stop imported ivy in gardens).

Secondly, you'll find your values may change. Actually, out here, life IS handed to you. Glorious sunsets. Agate-hunting as a blood sport. Fish you can catch and fry up yourself. Helpful, fun, smart, comical neighbors. Elk in the neighbors' back fields. Big happy healthy dogs to walk with you on the beaches. Big strong cats that go to the beaches with the kids. Kids who play outside, rain or shine! You'll forget about the cell phones and credit cards, because you'll find other ways to complete your lives.

As for being tree-huggers -- you don't have to say you aren't. You'll be arriving right when people are realizing that the way we handle forests have got to change. With the price of gasoline going up -- and it will continue UP --we've got to find a way to make sure every drop used to get wood out of the forests will not be wasted. The inefficient 19th-century methods of using forests are changing, as people begin to realize that a tree is not a "crop plant" -- it's a production unit. We can only keep clear-cutting so long, before the production base breaks down, and we're left with scrub that won't hold up those glacial-till hills.

As a writer, faced with the problems of acid paper, you'll already know that paper made from trees is expensive, both in terms of money and wasted water and bleach, and in the quick break-down of books and artwork. Use anything else on the planet to make paper -- corncobs, soy leavings, old clothes -- it's all available. Trees are too precious a research to be frittered away on paper (I grew up in Everett, and my whole family worked in the woodpulp-to-paper industry; we knew how poisonous and archaic it is).

It's not just loggers or fishermen out here -- it's also people who can't get enough of avant-garde movies at the libraries. People who write. People who are into theater. You've never seen a controversy as fearless and hot as the one we've been having in the Forks Forum ( over The Vagina Monologues. And while we're at it, let's remember that the loggers and fishermen watch those same movies and make beautiful art during the winter. They just need a way to sell it to the outside world. And since everybody wants the local environment restored and the tourist trade developed -- who better to act as guides and experts in management than the loggers and fishermen? (Or fisherfolk -- our local women don't just sit home and make tea!).

Come on over. Become part of the rennaissance of the West West end. You'll be welcomed with open arms.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Let's see, what was going on at the Slip Point beach yesterday...

Dan and I were down hunting agates as usual. You'd have to have a PhD in rocks to figure out all the wave-smoothed glacier-dumped pebbles rolling around on this beach. And forget about coming up here and strolling -- these pebbles are a real workout. You'll need a couple weeks just to learn to walk in them. A mile on these rocks is like 3 miles up a mountain, and back down again. And I'm talkin' Wagon Wheel (which I've done, in the Cascades -- in three hours, up and down), which is listed as "brutal."

Anyway, kid came down and leaped into the surf, gorgeous turquoise- and cobalt-blue surf, frilled with boiling snow-white foam. Had his surfboard with him, and his wetsuit, because without it this water will kill you in a half hour.

Surfing up here is for the ballocky (or ovary-y), because the water is cold, and the thing that makes the waves hump up are ship-killing reefs, that are decorated here and there with the iron knees from 19th-century shipwrecks.

The guys' friend came down and used a piece of driftwood as a bat to shoot big pebbles out at his friend in the surf. Surfboy covered his head and pretended he'd been hit. While riding in the reef waves. Beachboy was on the edge of the pebble cliff, not paying attention to whether or not he was going to fall in, or if he'd step into the part of the beach that was all like quicksand, due to the water under it, where the heavy waves could snatch him out into the nasty undertow.

Am I building up to a bad finish here? Nope. This is just normal fun up here. Nobody gets hurt playing with the beach. The kids at the day-care toddle up the waves, and the dogs swim into them.

Meanwhile, I'm up on the hill with the agates, laughing and pointing and clapping. I'm easily amused. But then, you have to understand that I spent a lot of time being dragged to drag-races as a kid.

Drag races are incredibly boring for spectators. Especially in the daytime. Two pastel-colored metal arrows, WAY over there, so the sound of their engines is muffled by distance. Going by in two straight, short lines. Over and over and over. When the daytime time trials (save me!) are finally over, the nighttime races come on. At a distance. Two metal arrows with muffled engines and lights, over and over and over again.

Even stock-car racing was more fun. And then only because you lived for the crashes. I remember those, vividly.

And -- don't tell Mom -- demolition derbies. Especially Powder-puff, cuz the women didn't care, and drove like banshees.

I'm easily amused.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Well, I have living -- literally living -- proof that Dan is the most compassionate and empathic man on the planet.

Sunday he was up hunting agates under the Slip Point cliff, and I had, as usual, flopped a line in the water from the beach. Now you must understand that I have been fishing for over 6 months, and have caught no fish. I'd lost so many sinkers that I've begun making my own out of beach stones and twisted wire.* Safer than lead sinkers, too.

The last time I'd caught a fish (see below) it had been from one particular hole out by the rocks. Always before, I'd slipped and scrambled out over the sea-bladder-grown rocks, to try to slip the bait and sinker into it again. Since the weather has begun to warm, the kelp beds below have been grabbing my rig and I've been unable to get it back without breaking the line.

I've gotten better at casting, too. I can pretty well throw a sinker-rock into whatever spot I like, using a reel that was never meant for casting. It's sort of what my dad used to call a bastard rig -- a pole a little too long for fresh water, a little too short for the sea, but useable in both. The open reel works for casting if I hold the line around my finger after slipping the bail. Yeah, you're not supposed to do it that way, but I gotta work with what I have.

So I thought I might as well sit on the beach and pretend to fish, if nothing else. It was what Barry Fitzgerald in The Quiet Man called "A nice soft day" -- very soft grey mizzle, that didn't get though the on-coming leaves of the maples, or the heavy brown cable-knit fisherman's sweather my sister made for me, or the black felt beret. Sitting nice and cozy in my rubber boots, on the plastic bag I always take along for many purposes -- gathering scallops, or rocks, or nettles (nettle omelets -- oh so tender!) or knotweed (steamed and marinated for salads) or beach peas (very soon now). And for a place to sit, especially on a wet cold pebble beach.

The bait was a mussel I'd picked up off the beach and slipped out of its shell with my Swiss Army knife. Threaded a barbless red egg-hook through the edges of the mantle and the siphon, so it would more or less keep the booger in place. Yup, that's the technical term for the rest of the soft gooey bits of a mussel. Well, it's the technical term around HERE. And this time, I'd put a little egg sinker right behind the hook, just to keep it on the sea-floor where something could sniff at it.

Flipped the rig into the water and sat down on my plastic bag to watch the drizzle. Dan was puttering around amongst the agates, making a soft rattling sound to match the deeper rattle of the little waves. Fish don't bite much in rough weather. The tide was just beginning to go out. Supposed to be a good time.

After about 10 minutes, I got bored and decided to reel in the rig and try it again. It started back and -- "Great. Stuck." Gave it another pull. Pft. Still stuck. But.... was that a wriggle in the line?

The end of the pole bobbed, and I began to evenly reel in the line. I wasn't going to pull it this time -- I was just going to keep reeling and reeling. And even though the line was hard to pull in, it kept coming. And it didn't feel stuck -- it felt heavy. Oh, man. Did I have a fish?

Sure did. Little 10-inch sculpin came sliding out of the water onto the gravel. "Supper!" I exulted to Dan, who didn't hear me. Last time, the foot-long sculpin had gulped the whole rig, and was hooked way down in the throat. This one was in the lip. Gently lowered it into the plastic bag and carefully holding its head, worked the hook out of its lip.

I walked up to where Dan was sitting and said, "Hey, watch this for me."

"You caught one?"

"Yup. And they don't die easy. Not even if you drive a nail through their head. So I figure the kindest thing to do is to just let him pass away here. Watch it for me?"

He said yes, and I went back to find another mussel. I figured that if I could get another fish, we'd have a real nice supper. After about 3 minutes he came down and said, "Can we let it go?"

"Let it go? We're gonna eat it."

"No, it's thrashing around in the bag and gasping. I can't stand to see it suffer."

Suffice it to say that I finally agreed to let it go. Took it down to the water's edge, and slipped it in. It just washed back and forth in the soft waves. "Oops. Maybe we'll have to eat it." Well, I knew a little about fish CPR -- I'd seen my dad do it. I took the fish gently in my hands, and washed it forward through the water, trying to drive water through the gills, to get oxygen back into its system. Waved the body so the tail would undulate in the water.

It took about 7 minutes, but the fish woke up and began to wave its tail by itself. I let it gently go, and it cruised back into the depths.

Dan and I have agreed that I'll only go fishing if we're out of the eggs we buy from a local farmer -- or if we don't have any other form of protein in the house. Or if he's just hungry for fish. I don't blame him for not wanting to see them killed. All through human existance,there has been a steadily-developing empathy for others' feelings. I'm beginning to think that what we call a sociopath is simply a more primitive brain. We've always had butchers, because there have been more developed farmers who could feel the pig's pain. If I can kill the fish, I'll kill it -- he doesn't have to. But I'm still going to share it with him.

I'm proud of having such a kind husband. And I'm pretty pleased at being able to respond to his feelings. I get kindness points, too.

But if that fish had been a 15-incher, I would have sat on it before I let it go.

*(that these stones, multicolored and in many colors, with a black rayon neck loop attached, have begun to sell as magical talismans, is another story.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Sent this letter to the Forks Forum on the 14th. The newspaper's reporting of the memorial service for the dead boys had been very slanted.

"Thanks for the article on the memorial. I attended because it was strongly hinted to me that I be there, as a new community member, even though I had not known the boys personally, although I was aqquainted with Damian's mother.

It was extremely kind of the Makah to sing medicine songs at the memorial, and to describe their uplifting beliefs concerning the afterlife. Perhaps the four (sometimes 5) eagles that have been circling over the center of Clallam Bay really are watching over their town.

I hope that that if any of the young men's friends or family were non-Christian, they did not hear the pastor's remark that only those who have accepted the pastor's dieties can find comfort after the death of a loved one. This was a very insensitive thing to say, and, considering the circumstances, cruel and thoughtless. The pastor's hinting that young people's turning toward suicide under stress being the work of an evil spirit was also unfortunate. He should know that young people sometimes take this drastic escape because they are in pain. They do not need guilt heaped upon their wounds."

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Just got back form the Clallam Bay/Sekiu Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Had told Rick at Final Destiny (tattoos, art gallery, future art supply store, even band and party place) that I'd pick him up for the meeting.

He was all ready. Linda at the Cove restaurant had groomed him -- nice painted blue jeans, nicest boots, nice white shirt, all his silver jewelry all polished up, his tattoos displayed just so. QUITE the spiffy biker guy.

And he had one of the worst cases of stage fright I'd ever seen. Heck, I don't know how we got him out the door. "I've always been MC at biker meetings all over the country -- but I was drunk!"

"Stay cool, man, you'll do great. You look very professional."

Suffice to say that the CoC welcomed him with open arms, especially since I've been constantly repeating what we plan to do. I've got catalogs coming, for art, ceramic, and native jewelry supplies. Now I have to find a good lapidary supply wholesaler. And the restaurants are getting into the idea of fresh local produce and animal products.

With the cheap rentals ($375.00 a month for a nice little trailer!), and art supplies, this view, gorgeous weather, and the restaurants upgrading -- this could be another arts district!

Which reminds me, the only official arts districts in Washington State are in Spokane and Bremerton.

Better get off my ass and go see what it would take to have Clallam Bay/Sekiu declared an arts district.

And not forget to apply for the State Grant, and see about the event money for setting up an arts program at the prison.

Whew! There is too much for an artist to do up here! The potential is staggering. And the people are grand. Just itching to make their town beautiful. AND the huge grant from the feds and the University of Washington to put in a local museum down by the old lighthouse site -- THAT ain't gonna hurt!

ANOTHER correction.

NOT a cabezon. (The fish I caught, see below). A sculpin.

Cabezons are bigger, and differently-colored. The one I caught was one of the many sculpin species. A lovely golden-faced fish with dark eyes.

And since I found out that the Cabezon season is May 1, this means I wasn't catching the wrong fish out of season.

Still the best eating I've ever had come out of the water. The chowder was, according to Dan, "The best chowder I've ever eaten."

Monday, April 05, 2004

Swallow attack!

The tree swallows -- those metallic-green-backed ones with the white rumps -- flying like Spitfires all over the front of the kitchen and computer-room windows.

AND how I got out of mowing the lawn more than once a year.

"Look," I said to Dan, who was wrinkling his brow at the green grass coming up, and the neighbors mowing theirs. "It's only trying to set seed. Let it set it, and give the finches something to eat. And the swallows bugs to catch. Then, when the dry season comes on, and the grass is dying back anyway, we'll chop it down and let it mulch."

Anything that helps the birds, you can talk Dan into. It's how I kept from raking leaves at the old house. "If we rake them up, where will the towhees and robins find bugs? Let's let 'em rot over winter, and mow 'em in with the (seed-headed) grass and let it all mulch."

Grass is for cows. What have we got it in our front yards for anyway? When I was a kid, we had a sheep for grass, and a goat for brambles.

What's this buying ancient bacteria-poop juice to run engines to cut grass animals should be eating?

People are stupid.

Or, let me specify -- the group of people who designs systems like this are stupid. They also put the shut-off valve to entire household plumbing systems under the house. And think they can win nuclear wars.

It's not MY people, as a group. I am so tired of Their dumbness. And putting up with it.

Jeeze. These are the people who invented everything from slavery to Nazism. They are lucky my people even talk to them.


Friday, April 02, 2004

Let me change that. It wasn't a rockfish -- it was a cabezon. A kind of bullhead. And good eating? Oh, man. They're better than halibut or salmon or rockfish. White, and moist, and ... a subtle sea flavor, almost sweet. The kind the Makah used to catch for breakfast. I coated it with a mixture of ground rice and ground barley, spices, garlic powder. Fried it in butter. Luscious. Crunchy, tender -- a little homemade tartar sauce, and nothing else was needed for supper.

But they're like eel... when you cut their head off, the mouth keeps working. How the hell do you kill a cabezon quickly? I AM a carnivore -- and I will kill an animal for food if I can do it quickly. ONLY for food. There has got to be a way to kill a cabezon quickly. And don't tell me to drive a nail through its brain. That's the first thing I tried, and no go. The damn thing must have the nervous system of a clam. I am NOT going to split a live animal open and clean it; there is a special karmic hell for that. What about putting one in the freezer until it goes to sleep? I dunno -- help.

I didn't do a great job filleting it, but all those fins and head and meat left on the bony bits got thrown into the stew pot. Meat will all be picked off, combined with little white potatoes, onions, a little sage or rosemary. Chowder that would make Melville drool. Nobody's going to disrespect THIS fish by wasting a scrap of it.

The locals thought we were starving because I made a chowder out of two nice halibut heads somebody had left on the beach. "NO!" I insisted. "I just wanted to see if I could do it." They made very nice fish stock. Not a lot of meat on 'em, once somebody scooped out the cheeks, but good chowder base. The Makah used to pick up lingcod heads that washed in from shark kills and boil 'em for soup. If they can do it, I can do it. Perfectly nice fresh fish-heads, from a clean beach. So what?

Once saw a deer head, fresh, lying by the freeway. Musta bounced out of somebody's truck. First thought through my mind -- "Soup!" If the traffic hadn't been insane, I'd have pulled off and grabbed it. Believe me, you don't see traffic-killed deer by the side of the road, here. They are not left to rot (or make vultures happy -- sorry, vultures!). I DO take guts and things down to the beach to give to the seagulls and crows. Spirit animals need fed.

Richard Simmons, who is one of our wood-sellers, said that he once hit a deer, crippled its hind legs, and got out to kill it -- and found himself in a fight with a buck that was using front hooves and antlers to try to kill him. He had the antlers in his hands, and didn't dare let go. If is girlfriend hadn't shown up with a skinning knife, it's a question of who would have got left on the road for Raven. Leaving an animal crippled up here is one of the Mortal Sins. The other Mortal Sin is leaving it to rot. Or wasting anything.

It's the reason you see no garbage or pieces of paper up here. PAPER you can start your wood-stove with. Garbage? That's not garbage. I can FIX that! That's the attitude. Now if we could spread it around.

Anyway, kinda shot from helping load a woodshed full of wood. We are feelthy with wood! If autumn comes around and we have no money -- we have wood. That's the same as money, and smells a lot better. Hurts, tho'.

Must be getting old.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I caught a fish.

I'll be damned, I caught a fish!

About a foot long, nice rock-fish. On an egg hook, a St. Vinnie's sparkly plastic worm, and a chunk of rock mussel. Darn fish SWALLOWED it.

I asked to catch a fish in the name of one of the boys who'd been killed recently (see recent postings) -- Cassidy Hunter. Cassidy was known for his love of fishing. He might not have finished his math homework, but he could sure count the fish he'd caught. And up here, fish counts more than math.

It was kinda like, "Cassidy, if you're not an eagle, and you'd like a body to inhabit to fish in, then come fish in me."

And bam! I had me a rockfish.

All peoples have made people who have gone before into deities, minor or great.

From now on, I'm fishing in the name of Cassidy Hunter. Call me superstitious, call me lucky, I'm giving Cassidy the credit. I never met the kid, but if I can help him keep fishing, I'll make sure my fishing license stays active.

Better go thaw us some potatoes -- fish for supper tonight!
Five young men died in this very small community recently. One shot himself, four more were destroyed when their car flipped into the Pysht river on the way back from Port Angeles. For details, go to and hunt the archives.

Even though I didn't know the boys, it was strongly hinted that, as a member of the community, I attend the memorial service in the Clallam Bay School Big Gym. And we'd bought the house from the mother of one of the boys. So even though I didn't want to be presumptuous upon anyone's grief, I agreed that adding to the number of people in the audience would be comforting. Dressed up in my spiffiest New-Yorker black, and went up the hill (Dan had a cold. And he hates these things).

The services began with the playing of hymns upon a piano as the people filed in. Kinda nice -- I like those Protestant hymns.

As is usual at such services, winced through the Christian minister's opportunistic exploitation of the community's grief to remind everybody that, "unlike others," nobody but those who had Found The Lord would find comfort.

How do these guys live with themselves? They have no clue that there might be other than professed Christians in the audience, and they drive a knife through these people's hearts. I wasn't even related to the boys, and I felt the hackles go up on my neck. And if these guys DO have a clue, there is a special hell for them.

He went on to speak of the fact that so many young people today have the "dark need, the strange need" to leave life themselves. With "dark," I think he was hinting that Sa-Tan was involved. Well, first of all, Satan is a Christian god. And second of all, people off themselves because they're in pain. And a lot of kids today are in pain. The devil didn't make 'em do it -- they just want to get out.

And then the people spoke.

First of all, the kids had chosen songs like "Where's my Homey?" for music. Ghetto songs about grief and death and loss. A cry from the heart. I felt mine constrict.

And then a member of the Makah tribe got up and told everyone (I may be wrong in thinking defiantly) that among her people when young men die, they are reborn as something strong. She spoke of four eagles that had showed up over the town. The eagles are mating right now, but they don't usually hang around downtown. So come to your own conclusions. She finished with, "So when you see something strong -- an eagle, a bear, a raven, a mountain lion, know that they are still with us."

The Makah elders had come down to sing Medicine songs, too. Their song had a spooky chorus that sounded like a ghost hoo-ing in the woods. Their take on offing yourself from grief or trouble: anything you do reflects on your relatives and your community. So hang around and bring honor upon your people.

Both ways of pushing people back from the brink, but one had less threat and more appeal to the community status of the kids in the audience. The minister was more subdued after that. See? Even Christians can learn tolerance.

The kids at the school put together a slide-show about their lost friends, that was heartbreaking AND funny. And then a second slide-show, that treated the five boys as if they were running on the field at a ball game, and the school was encouraged to clap and make noise.

Did you hear it? I don't know why not. They were on their feet screaming and stamping.

We should all be very glad that young generation is coming on -- they're fighting generations of war and damage and hate, and they're fighting hard.

Tough times. Tough kids.