28 December 2006

People season

This picture was taken a few days ago, and now people season has begun in earnest, so the scene is much more cluttered. Characteristics of the season? Many more humans than in the winter, but not many by international standards. Lost beach items, and discarded fishing catches. Last year, a stingray with the hook still in its mouth, that curved mouth that looks like a torque of finely cut moonstones set by a master jeweller. There are few beings as lovely and worthy of respectful admiration as a ray.

There will be many more blue-bottles (Physalia utriculus, otherwise called Portuguese man-o'-war) who end their multiple lives on the shore in the coming months. Blue-bottles are only one species in what's called the Blue Layer that get all washed up and whose mortal coils literally dessicate on golden sands in the summer months. Here is a beached Porpita porpita

W.J. Dakin's Australian Seashores, revised and illustrated by Isobel Bennet tells much about their lives, has much better pictures than I can take, and is a classic that should be reprinted. It is a great book for really learning how the other many billions live, including those who constitute the Blue Layer.

Wonderfully out of range of today's syndrome-proud standards, this passage is typical, and is appropriately about the blue-bottle: "The dried bladders, still containing gas and still blue in colour, may be thick on the sandy beaches, tossed up above the high-water mark by the waves. Children like to pop them by stamping on them."

Sadly, I've never had to shove any children out of the way when I've done my stamping. They don't play this game any more, though last year we were lucky enough to come across a mother and her 6-year-old son, who had just found a tiny, incredibly cute blue-ringed octopus in a tidepool. "Come away," the mother said. "Don't bother the octopus." (And yes, she knew the reputation of the little thing.)

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