day 309 – Clam Digging – part one

No, no sirve, hija – es muy chiquito – dejalo que crezca.  Tíralo de vuelta en el agua, no lo metas en la canasta, Cecilia” (No, it’s no good, daughter – it’s too little – let it grow.  Throw it back into the water; do not put it in the basket, Cecilia).

‘Argh,’ I think.  Bitten by a crab for a teeny, tiny clam I have to throw back into the water. Really?  Oh well, back it goes.  I restore this creature to the depths of the murky inlet of Little Africa Beach into the depths of the Long Island Sound.

The summer sun warms the muddy water and drenches me in heat.   I kick the dark sandy sediment at the bottom of the sea upwards using my toes as I feel around for clams. Seagulls squawk and dive down over my head.  Their constant swooping and chatter, a backdrop to the lapping of shallow waves.  The distinctive scent of the sea permeates my nostrils and hangs heavy in the hot, humid air. The brine tastes sweet, it’s familiar taste pleasant and a comfort, as I smack my lips. It is a flavor particular to the Long Island Sound, back east, in New York.

My dad says it is unlawful to keep the miniature little neck clams and I reluctantly return them to the tepid summer water.  I look forward to them thriving, developing and multiplying because next season I will eagerly scoop and hold them up high like a prize won for patience, endurance and expertise.

The best way I know how to dig for clams is to touch and dig into the earth under the seawater as I tread and hop. I feel the terrain with my toes and grab what I think might be a clam between the ball of my feet and toes, clinching tightly around my catch …then I swing my clenched foot up to my opposite hip and reach down with either hand.  As I bring it to light for the very first time in its life out into the air and sunshine, I inspect my treasure.

Sometimes, my find emerges out of the water and it’s just a sharp- edged rock and I am severely disappointed.  On most occasions though, I discover a solid, pearly, round Little Neck clam, native to the Northeastern seaboard.  I bob up and down as I trudge the floor of the Sound searching for hours, repeating the scenario.  Occasionally, a crab grabs my toes and nips.  Sometimes, I even draw blood.

“Ouch!,” I exclaim.

Crabby crustacean biting occurs frequently in the month of August.  It is a good time to stick some old Converse or cheap department store sneakers on my feet to go clamming safely.

Today, I realize a little too late, is the last day of July and I left my shoes outside on the kitchen stoop leading to our patio. After my café con leche (coffee with milk) in the morning, I didn’t want to miss a single minute of daylight or time with my dad so I hightailed it out quickly to the driveway.

My dad waits with our gear in our old white-finned car. I live in bathing suits in the summer adding perhaps a pair of culottes and maybe a top. I dress in beach-prepared style all summer long.    However, I forget my protective sneakers today and I pay with some abrasions and crab inflicted wounds.

Tune in tomorrow for further clam digging drama…

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