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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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For posts sorted by date or label, see the links below.

For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

To search this blog, type in the field at the top left of the page and hit enter.

Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A last-minute adventure

We were hoping for geoducks.

If you've never seen one before, let me point you to this helpful video. If you already know what these things are and where they live, then you know it's not easy to dig them up yourself.

But we were game, D and I. And so were three dear friends from college (two currently living in Portland, the other visiting them while attending a conference). They told us they wanted to come up for the weekend, do something outdoorsy, and eat exotic food.

We said, why not roll all of that into the same adventure?

Our friends, being of the same slightly crazy bent, heartily agreed that this was the thing to do.

Okay. Here's the disclaimer: I've never been clam-digging and neither has D. We didn't have a clue about where to find geoducks, much less how to go about harvesting them, but since these big bivalves are native to our region, we figured there would be locals in the know if we needed advice.

So D looked up which beaches were specifically recommended for our geoduck hunt, when low tide would hit, and what sort of license we would need (yes, you do need a license in Washington to dig for clams). And he got basic tips on how to locate our prey (more on that shortly) and what kind of equipment to use for proper excavation.

Sunday morning, we headed for the Olympic Peninsula.



We were told that geoducks would be accessible at tide levels of minus two feet and that even then, we'd need to do some serious digging to get to them. So we furnished everyone with boots and various gardening tools (a spade here, a trowel there, and even a collapsible snow shovel). We also stopped at a hardware store to get this:


A garbage can? Oh yes. For shoring up the walls of the holes we'd be digging in waterlogged sand. Just saw off the bottom and ta da! Instant brace. (It was the best we could come up with in place of the metal drum recommended for such purposes.)

We got to the beach about an hour and a half ahead of low tide, looking every bit the first-timers we were. What were we supposed to look for, we wondered. Siphons, supposedly, sticking right out of the sand. But there wasn't much to be seen right away.


A little surface digging, however, turned up great numbers of cockle clams, among other kinds. So we set about harvesting those for a while.

In the process we also unearthed several moon snails (not to be taken home, according to regulations, but fascinating to observe). This one was shy and went into its shell when I pulled out my camera:



This one, on the other hand, was curious. Hard to believe all of that body could fit inside that tiny house!


Then an enormous sea star floated by:


We offered it a cockle in exchange for a look at its tube feet.


Suddenly, there was a shout.

"I saw it! Something squirted water a foot in the air!" said one of the boys, pointing at a burbling hole in the sand.


They dug madly for a few minutes, throwing cockle-loaded chunks of beach aside until --


"I've got its neck!"

"Hang on to it! Let me free up the shell -- "

"Wait, where's the garbage can? The walls are coming down!"

"No time, just dig. Can you rock it loose?"

"Um ... "

(Shouting gives way to organized grunting. The girls step away from the hole, not sure whether the boys or their prey will win.)

And then:


Victory!

Numerous victories, in fact. As the afternoon went on, we started to recognize the holes in the sand that indicated there was something below. I'm sure the other people on the shore could tell we were amateurs by our excitement at each find. But we didn't care. At the end of the day, we had seven giant clams in our cooler.


When we went to have our catch weighed by the warden, though, we learned that they were not in fact geoducks.

"Horse clams," she explained with a gentle smile. And she showed us, in her well-worn guide to shellfish, pictures of our find next to its even larger cousin, which, given the day's low tide of only -0.3 feet, was well beyond reach.*

Both clams, said a fellow digger who overheard the verdict, could be cooked the same way -- the siphons blanched and skinned then sliced thin for sashimi. (The rest of the innards, unlike our 120 whole cockles, were not recommendable for the steamer.)

Yes, we were a little disappointed. But only momentarily. The point of the trip was to experience something we hadn't before, and we certainly had, with much abandon. So we headed for our return ferry still pleased with our adventure.

And the meal that evening?


Well-earned.

* If, after all this, you're interested in trying for geoducks yourself, this page provides excellent tips. Good luck -- and I totally want to hear about your experience if you go!

7 comments:

French Fancy said...

I'd never heard of geoducks before and it was quite an eyeopener. You don't really get molluscs that big around here but you do see mussels (baby clams) which we have gone foraging for, There is nothing like cooking food for free over here - although I never take a chance with the fungi. You see lots of French people with their wicker baskets under their arms collecting them but they probably take their catch to the pharmacist for identification. I'd be too greedy to wait that long.

ID the photos please - who is who? Which man is D?

suzicate said...

This was a fascinating read. Thanks for the intro of Dirty jobs to explain it. Looks like a fun day!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

What a wonderful day you had - and not one you'll soon forget, I imagine. I plan to show these photos to my toddler. I bet he'll be quite jealous of you for finding all of those slimy creatures!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

FF -- we have not yet gotten into mushroom hunting here, but I'm sure if our friends visit again, it'll be a possibility. And yes, I know I left the everyone unidentified. I guess D stands out to me in the pictures :)

SuziCate -- that Dirty Jobs clip was helpful! I think it served as our primary introduction to geoducks (in their natural habitat) too. We've seen them in aquariums at fish markets. Not quite the same.

Kristen -- I totally had kids in mind when I posted all the close-up shots :). I figured someday I'd want to show my own children these things too. And they might like to see what their "aunt" and "uncles" looked like in their crazy youth ...

Good Enough Woman said...

I need to show the pictures to my kiddie-poos!

I'm so impressed with the rallying involved in this adventure! The timing, the traveling, the trip to the hardware store, the cooking. Wow! Well-done, CT!

Looks like you could write an article about your day for a food mag or local travel mag--you think?

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Great idea, GEW! I'll have to pitch the "cool wildlife you can see/dig up" angle over "how to excavate a geoduck," of course :).

As for the kiddie-poos, I so thought of the Boy while I was putting the cockles to soak in a bowl of salt water (to make them spit out the sand in their systems). Each one had a foot that reminded me of something between a giant tongue and a flexed bicep. The cockles would periodically wag/pump their feet (kind of indignantly?) to move around in the bowl. A bit unnerving to watch and, I imagine, something that would have fascinated your budding naturalist!

theycallmejane said...

What a FUN adventure! Great pics, too. And I loved following along! Too cool!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

A last-minute adventure

We were hoping for geoducks.

If you've never seen one before, let me point you to this helpful video. If you already know what these things are and where they live, then you know it's not easy to dig them up yourself.

But we were game, D and I. And so were three dear friends from college (two currently living in Portland, the other visiting them while attending a conference). They told us they wanted to come up for the weekend, do something outdoorsy, and eat exotic food.

We said, why not roll all of that into the same adventure?

Our friends, being of the same slightly crazy bent, heartily agreed that this was the thing to do.

Okay. Here's the disclaimer: I've never been clam-digging and neither has D. We didn't have a clue about where to find geoducks, much less how to go about harvesting them, but since these big bivalves are native to our region, we figured there would be locals in the know if we needed advice.

So D looked up which beaches were specifically recommended for our geoduck hunt, when low tide would hit, and what sort of license we would need (yes, you do need a license in Washington to dig for clams). And he got basic tips on how to locate our prey (more on that shortly) and what kind of equipment to use for proper excavation.

Sunday morning, we headed for the Olympic Peninsula.



We were told that geoducks would be accessible at tide levels of minus two feet and that even then, we'd need to do some serious digging to get to them. So we furnished everyone with boots and various gardening tools (a spade here, a trowel there, and even a collapsible snow shovel). We also stopped at a hardware store to get this:


A garbage can? Oh yes. For shoring up the walls of the holes we'd be digging in waterlogged sand. Just saw off the bottom and ta da! Instant brace. (It was the best we could come up with in place of the metal drum recommended for such purposes.)

We got to the beach about an hour and a half ahead of low tide, looking every bit the first-timers we were. What were we supposed to look for, we wondered. Siphons, supposedly, sticking right out of the sand. But there wasn't much to be seen right away.


A little surface digging, however, turned up great numbers of cockle clams, among other kinds. So we set about harvesting those for a while.

In the process we also unearthed several moon snails (not to be taken home, according to regulations, but fascinating to observe). This one was shy and went into its shell when I pulled out my camera:



This one, on the other hand, was curious. Hard to believe all of that body could fit inside that tiny house!


Then an enormous sea star floated by:


We offered it a cockle in exchange for a look at its tube feet.


Suddenly, there was a shout.

"I saw it! Something squirted water a foot in the air!" said one of the boys, pointing at a burbling hole in the sand.


They dug madly for a few minutes, throwing cockle-loaded chunks of beach aside until --


"I've got its neck!"

"Hang on to it! Let me free up the shell -- "

"Wait, where's the garbage can? The walls are coming down!"

"No time, just dig. Can you rock it loose?"

"Um ... "

(Shouting gives way to organized grunting. The girls step away from the hole, not sure whether the boys or their prey will win.)

And then:


Victory!

Numerous victories, in fact. As the afternoon went on, we started to recognize the holes in the sand that indicated there was something below. I'm sure the other people on the shore could tell we were amateurs by our excitement at each find. But we didn't care. At the end of the day, we had seven giant clams in our cooler.


When we went to have our catch weighed by the warden, though, we learned that they were not in fact geoducks.

"Horse clams," she explained with a gentle smile. And she showed us, in her well-worn guide to shellfish, pictures of our find next to its even larger cousin, which, given the day's low tide of only -0.3 feet, was well beyond reach.*

Both clams, said a fellow digger who overheard the verdict, could be cooked the same way -- the siphons blanched and skinned then sliced thin for sashimi. (The rest of the innards, unlike our 120 whole cockles, were not recommendable for the steamer.)

Yes, we were a little disappointed. But only momentarily. The point of the trip was to experience something we hadn't before, and we certainly had, with much abandon. So we headed for our return ferry still pleased with our adventure.

And the meal that evening?


Well-earned.

* If, after all this, you're interested in trying for geoducks yourself, this page provides excellent tips. Good luck -- and I totally want to hear about your experience if you go!

7 comments:

French Fancy said...

I'd never heard of geoducks before and it was quite an eyeopener. You don't really get molluscs that big around here but you do see mussels (baby clams) which we have gone foraging for, There is nothing like cooking food for free over here - although I never take a chance with the fungi. You see lots of French people with their wicker baskets under their arms collecting them but they probably take their catch to the pharmacist for identification. I'd be too greedy to wait that long.

ID the photos please - who is who? Which man is D?

suzicate said...

This was a fascinating read. Thanks for the intro of Dirty jobs to explain it. Looks like a fun day!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

What a wonderful day you had - and not one you'll soon forget, I imagine. I plan to show these photos to my toddler. I bet he'll be quite jealous of you for finding all of those slimy creatures!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

FF -- we have not yet gotten into mushroom hunting here, but I'm sure if our friends visit again, it'll be a possibility. And yes, I know I left the everyone unidentified. I guess D stands out to me in the pictures :)

SuziCate -- that Dirty Jobs clip was helpful! I think it served as our primary introduction to geoducks (in their natural habitat) too. We've seen them in aquariums at fish markets. Not quite the same.

Kristen -- I totally had kids in mind when I posted all the close-up shots :). I figured someday I'd want to show my own children these things too. And they might like to see what their "aunt" and "uncles" looked like in their crazy youth ...

Good Enough Woman said...

I need to show the pictures to my kiddie-poos!

I'm so impressed with the rallying involved in this adventure! The timing, the traveling, the trip to the hardware store, the cooking. Wow! Well-done, CT!

Looks like you could write an article about your day for a food mag or local travel mag--you think?

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Great idea, GEW! I'll have to pitch the "cool wildlife you can see/dig up" angle over "how to excavate a geoduck," of course :).

As for the kiddie-poos, I so thought of the Boy while I was putting the cockles to soak in a bowl of salt water (to make them spit out the sand in their systems). Each one had a foot that reminded me of something between a giant tongue and a flexed bicep. The cockles would periodically wag/pump their feet (kind of indignantly?) to move around in the bowl. A bit unnerving to watch and, I imagine, something that would have fascinated your budding naturalist!

theycallmejane said...

What a FUN adventure! Great pics, too. And I loved following along! Too cool!