I am an avid sea glass collector. Not a hoarder, I tell myself, because all the sea glass I own fits inside two crab bushels. Collecting sea glass is one of the great joys of living near the Chesapeake Bay or, I’m sure, a real sea ocean. Technically, I guess, I collect bay glass.
This week, after a deep freeze, the first over-50 degree day was forecast, so I opened my iPad app that tells me when low tide is, and my daughter and I planned a trip down to Tilghman Island.
The weather was gorgeous. The tiny beach I trespass—er, look for sea glass on hadn’t been hunted in awhile because the weather had been so icy. So there were gorgeous pieces in the rarest shades: pink, purple, blue. A whole Art Deco milk glass jar, a fab red glass bead. There was also a scary-as-shit red and purple jellyfish the size of a dinner plate that was pulsating and completely freaked me out because if he is alive when the water’s been frozen all week, the August jellyfish are going to crawl up on the island and eat us all in our sleep.
The land is eroding, making the beach smaller and smaller each month, and I know every time I go there that too soon the bay will just meet the bulkhead and there will be no more sea glass hunting unless you’re underwater. Sea glass normally comes from glass that’s been underground eroding out into the water, tumbling around, and then washing up on the beach. So sometimes, where the land visibly erodes, you can see whole bottles. I have found a perfect turquoise 1880s Baltimore bottle, cobalt blue turn of the century Bromo Seltzer bottles and antique McCormick spice bottles this way. The problem with pulling a bottle out of mud is that sometimes the bottle is not whole, it just looks whole, but it’s actually in pieces that the mud is just holding together. So you can pull out a bottle and it can turn out to be a deadly shard that will cut a bitch. In short, sea glass hunting is fucking dangerous.
I mean, it’s not usually dangerous, because you’re picking up very soft tumbled smooth pieces that are more than a hundred years old. But I have gotten cut a few times before, nothing major. Until this week, first nice sea glass hunting day of 2013, when I completely drove a shard of glass into my hand, two inches above the artery in my wrist that would’ve meant accidental sea glass suicide and bloody beach death.
I did what you do when you get a cut, I ran water over it, only the water was polluted Chesapeake Bay. Ick. After seeing the eco-thriller movie The Bay, my daughter and I figured I didn’t have much time to live, so she drove to the hospital since everyone knows zombies can’t parallel park.
But first we stopped at the country store. My friends there said I should go to the fire hall. There’s no doctor on the island, and apparently the EMS workers will assess your injury and determine whether or not you need to drive the 20 minutes to the nearest hospital. As they ate their lunch, these guys told me that yeah, since I couldn’t move my hand without blood spurting out, I needed stitches.
At the hospital, I spent over three hours waiting and 20 minutes getting sewn up. The doctor was from Tilghman Island. She was more creeped out by the fact that I’d had an open cut in the bay than by the cut itself. The pain had spread all the way to my shoulder. It was only four stitches; she said I was lucky I hadn’t hit the nerve, and sent me on my way with prescriptions for antibiotics and Tylenol with Codeine, “because that’s going to throb really bad pretty soon.”
And it did. Luckily it was my left hand, but someone has to open pill bottles and jars for me because I can’t grasp things with my left hand to open them with my right. I have definitely learned what it is I use my left hand for (deodorant, ponytail making, opening doorknobs). I can type (obviously), but only with a few of my left hand fingers. I am a dumb seaglasshole, and I’ve learned my lesson.
What's up with this cautionary Beachcomber's Tale? Sounds like somebody wants the gorgeous pieces and rarest shades all to herself. Wily gulls and crows always claim to know some scavenger who wound up on the wrong side of a six pack harness. Oh yeah. Try the next sandbar, Prufrock. It's a peach.
I will absolutely admit to wanting the gorgeous pieces and rarest shades to myself, T.S. Eliot. ;)