In the garden strains of music,
Full of inexpressible sadness.
Scent of the sea, pungent, fresh,
On an ice bed, a dish of oysters…
-Anna Akhmatova (“Evening“)
For me, there was no music, there was certainly no sadness and, instead of an elegant dish of oysters on an ice bed, we had a big old paper bag full of oysters. In short, my trip up north may not have been the stuff of poetry, but it was still everything that I could have wanted from the beginning of spring break. It was an escape, a release, a break from the Groundhog-like Day monotony that had been plaguing me. In fact, as I was packing my camera and a bag full of treats, I realized that this was the first time I was going anywhere since we returned to California from Pennsylvania in early January. Trust me when I say that it had been far too long.
This day trip to Drake’s Bay was everything I could have hoped for in an escape; it combined friends, the pup, the Greek and good food, not to mention the brisk sea air, which, after weeks of feeling congested and sneezy, suddenly woke up my nostrils, reminding me what it meant and how it felt to breathe: glor-i-ous. I was also immediately charmed by the rundown, whitewashed look of the place. It seemed to be on the edge of oyster country (far less populated than the popular Tomales Bay, which doesn’t allow dogs), its own little enclave. In a way, it was just us, the oysters and the angry, angry wind.
There are certain things you’re just not prepared for in life–maybe a better way of putting it is that you never quite expect to be standing in the brisk sea air wearing a thin coat, a thick scarf and fur-lined boots while eating oysters as strands of your hair whip madly around your face. As I said, definitely not the stuff of poetry. This was more the material of a somewhat gritty short story in which nothing all that important happens; we might call this a mood piece in which something seemingly insignificant, yet transformative happens. This thing that happened: I realized how much I liked oysters. It certainly helped that I had come prepared; not only did I have a clip for my wayward hair, but I had also spent the morning packing the all-important toppings: mignonettes (finely chopped shallots with lots of white pepper and doused in red or white wine vinegar), gussied-up margarine (because our friends are Orthodox–one is even a priest-in-training–they’re essentially vegan until Lent is over) with lemon juice, zest and tarragon…and a bowl of olives for on the side because they make everything better.
Since most of my work had taken place behind the scenes, all I had to do at the oyster shack was watch the dog (a pleasure since she was occupying herself by rolling around on top of discarded oyster shells that littered the bay; it must have been like a massage for her) and sit back and enjoy myself. This in and of itself was a treat; I was thrilled not to have to do anything. Instead, the Greek and the Serb took care of the work. They proved themselves so skilled at shucking oysters that the girls at the next table, who were having a fair amount of difficulty, came over for a lesson. In return for services rendered, they brought us some strawberries. One bite into the freckled crimson exterior and it was like summer in my mouth. Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve had quality strawberries, but, in that moment, I honestly felt these were the best strawberries I had ever had in my life. I easily could have eaten a pint and then some.
Such a treat, alas, was not meant to be. Fortunately, however, we had come prepared in another way. The joy of constantly having bananas blackening in a bowl on your counter is that you always get to make banana bread. This time around, we deviated from our go-to banana bread recipes (this and this recent addition to the banana bread repertoire) and made a vegan loaf, courtesy of the Post Punk Kitchen. Maybe oysters aren’t all that filling or maybe we were too hungry for our own good, but I take great pride in saying that only one slice of banana bread remained at the end of the afternoon.
After stuffing ourselves something silly, we went to the nearby beach to take a long walk and to tire out the pup. I’m pleased to report that, as soon as she hit the sand, she was off like a little lightning bolt. And she definitely wasn’t the only person who returned home exhausted. They say that a tired puppy is a happy puppy, and I think that, in certain contexts, this saying can apply to humans, too. It was definitely one of those days for me.