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Creek Running North

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November 30, 2003

Shellfish and place

Feathers stick to Lisa's window. A slight smear, surprising blue-gray and yellow down, traces the path of impact the robin took before it fell, broken and dying, to the forest duff below.

We drank tea, then drove from Inverness to Point Reyes Station to eat oysters.

A few years ago Becky and I stopped in Marshall, across Tomales Bay from Lisa's house, to buy oysters for Thanksgiving dinner. At the Tomales Bay Oyster Company you drive up, walk to the bluff above the shore, and select oysters, sorted by size, from a series of tanks irrigated with water continuously pumped in from the bay. Becky wondered aloud how large the "mediums" would be: a smiling, raincoat-clad man pulled one out of its tank, shucked it with a fast flick of wrist, and handed it to me. I swallowed it without thinking.

Yesterday, an odd, familiar guilt nagged at me as I left the house to spend the day in the company of someone other than Becky. Call it force of psychic habit: other people whose marriages have weathered trauma will understand. So many weekend days all those years ago, spent driving Marin and Sonoma backroads with someone else. A useless, silly pang of guilt: Becky was invited, and declined because she doesn't like oysters.

Call it a mixed marriage. De gustibus non est disputandum. Becky doesn't like cilantro, either, while I find the thought of life without cilantro rather chilling. That inadvertently swallowed oyster on Tomales Bay - seconds out of its natal waters, eaten while facing into the November drizzle, watching the Pacific Plate slowly grind along the submerged San Andreas Fault beneath Tomales Bay - ranks as one of the best meals I've ever eaten, a sudden, sodden communion with the hills, the bay, and the leaden sky.

I'd thought I might drive back to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company to borrow a hibachi and some charcoal, and sit at a picnic table watching the bay, chatting with Lisa about writing, life, tree bark, and such, as our shellfish slowly roasted to death over the coals. But we'd both been sick a couple days before, and the forecast called for rain to chill the already cool coast, so we opted for a cozy restaurant and, as I bored Lisa with my life story, we ate a dozen Johnson's oysters someone else had barbecued.

They were good. Not standing by the bay in the rain good, you understand, but certainly remembering standing by the bay in the rain good. I took the long way home after I dropped Lisa off, north along the bay to Tomales and into Petaluma. Fat raindrops pocked the truck windshield. The cypresses along Tomales-Petaluma Road, bleached the same gray as the fenceposts beneath them, sheltered the bay's totemic black and white Holsteins.

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 30, 2003 09:27 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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chris--great stuff. I like the "remembering" sequence especially, tho' it finishes second to you observation about treetrunks and fenceposts...

Posted by: andy harris at December 2, 2003 01:58 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs