The muddy sand slips between our toes as we bend over to look for tiny bubbling holes along the beach. The shore has a reddish hue, like rust, and our feet sink down in the muck until our ankles are swallowed up in saltwater pools. The ruddy cliffs rise up behind us, with bright green patches of vegetation clinging to the surface It’s low tide now, the scent of sun-baked seaweed and salt hang in the air, but when the water comes in, it’ll be moving fast. I glace at the ocean to see how much longer we’ve got.
My sister stoops down to poke at the sand with the tip of her shovel. Her long, dark hair trails over the ground, leaving a wispy train. She pulls out the spade, the scoop filled with mud, and pokes around.
“I found one,” she calls out, a giant smile on her face.
She runs toward our parents, holding out the clam like it’s a hard-won prize. Her tiny feet smack against the ground, the sound echoing off the cliffs. Behind her, the footprints fill with water until they disappear into the shore.
I don’t have a shovel; there’s only one for all four of us to share. So, I dig my hands down where I’ve found a bubbling spot. The sand is soft and cool on my fingers, and I wrap my hand around the cold, hard shell when I find it, pulling it free. I brush the clam off on my potato-sack pants, the rough burlap material like a scouring sponge.I look out at the skyline, trying to gauge how much time we have left. Little silver fish, and blue crabs, and billowy jellyfish will ride in with the dulse on the waves. It seems strange that they’d come so far north, to Nova Scotia, but the Atlantic is warm here even if the evening air is cool.
I toss the clam in my bucket and search for another, but my eyes are continuously drawn to the sea. I know it’s coming. It won’t be long now. And there’s a thrill to it, being so close to danger. My heart races and I’ve never felt more alive.
“Time to go,” Dad calls out, his deep baritone carries to me on the wind.
I walk toward him, the clam-heavy bucket bouncing against my leg with every step I take. My mom and sister are already making their way up the path to the top of the cliff. The smoke from a campfire is like a beacon at the top, guiding us home.
There’s a seagull feather on the ground and I stop to stick it into the sand like a solitary tree in a desert. When I join my father at the foot of the cliffs, the roar of the waves makes it impossible to talk. We climb the path, side-by-side. By the time we make it to the top, the feather has been swallowed by the sea.
Note: This story for my creative writing class was based on a real-life experience I had growing up on a camping trip in Nova Scotia. I still have the potato sack pants that we picked up at a Co-Op earlier in the trip, along with some pretty awesome memories. While brainstorming ideas for my creative writing class, my sister reminded me of this vacation and the rest is a little slice of family history.