The Snail Trail, part 1

For a long time I ignored the snails at my local tide pool. Snails. Meh.

Then one day I happened past a snail that had just completed what might have been eternity symbol. After that I was discovering a fabulous new design every few paces.

Since that revelatory day, I’ve made a point of seeking out the artworks that snails have etched in the sand. Like Buddhist sand mandalas, these will be gone with the next high tide. Recently I found this lacy meanderer:

and this delicate brushwork on rock:

Sometimes I spot an artist at work. More often I find them gathered, perhaps at a cafe:

Of all the snail trails I’ve found to date, this one has most captivated me:

Most of this extensive design came from a single snail during one low tide. I’m pretty sure the artist is the dark blob in the lower right. It lacks a snail silhouette because it has seaplants on its shell.

(This is a common tidepool occurrence. Hold still for long and somebody will grow on you:

But I digress.)

I have spent weeks with the extensive snail trail. I have contemplated it, colored it, admired it. Over the next several posts I’ll share some of what I’ve learned by traveling this snail trail.

First, I cropped the trail a bit. (Not sure this made it any less complicated. Perhaps as I advance with my trail work, I will return to the full trail.) Next, I became familiar with the biggest twists and turns:

After that… well, more soon… er… Lots more soon.

As it turns out, fascination, preoccupation, obsession are all parts of the same coin.

Low Tide Magic

It’s that time of year in southern California. Extra high tides (the so-called king tides) alternate with spectacularly low tides (anarchist tides?), revealing tide pools teeming with fabulous occupants. I’ve never seen starfish out in the world, before!

The colors. The patterns. Everywhere.

A person can stare a long time waiting to see one of these gals move. Here’s evidence that movement recently occurred!:

These mussels have worked around a band of white plastic:

Amazing to see anemones with soft sticky outsides that are sludge-free. (Perhaps these critters live in deeper water than the sludged ones?) (I’m making that up.):

Anybody know what these translucent donut creatures are called?

I was not alone enjoying the tide pools:

I could be friends with that one in the middle.

Look, a tar bat!

These craters formed when water dropped from the rock above:

A Vertical Tide Pool

Let’s face it, erosion is inevitable. In the pictures below, what you will see was once a sea wall, that is, a futile attempt to keep sand where we humans think it should stay. The ocean moved the sand, as it always does; and the ocean removed pieces of the wall, one chemically weathered molecule at a time. The result is a relic that charges my imagination every time I visit its beach, in Santa Barbara, California.

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This former seawall now evokes a line of creatures.

 

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The creatures have tide pools growing up their sides!

 

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I’m guessing that the tidepool growth protects the remaining wall from more erosion.

 

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Detail of a creature’s “leg”.

 

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At the feet, anemones are open for business.

 

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The dense organization of shells makes complex designs in the creature’s hide!

 

The original image.

Sunset instills its own magic on the scene.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic was “Relic”.