Today I am missing the ocean. Always I feel tied to it, gulls circling and the mingling smells of salt and seaweed. Waves sang me my first lullaby. Windswept east coach coastlines imprinted my memory before I left my last deposit in a diaper. I’ve told you before, or not, if new to my writing, when I find a stretch of beach I sit where the moist sand lies just beyond the greedy fingers of the incoming waves. Using the sand for a medium, and a stick for a sculpting tool, I create a line of sea turtles to mark my passing there. Beachcombers often stop to comment on my artwork. Perhaps a grown woman making turtles in the sand might seem a curiosity. Some sit in the warm sand next to me and strike up a conversation discussing their lives or commenting on the weather. My turtles leave a part of me to be swept up with the incoming tide and incorporated into the vastness of the sea to share space with the other strange inhabitants.
If it wasn’t for the mystifying fact I’ve been accused of “over loving” my fish by a pet store employee following the untimely demise of my second beta, I would own an aquarium. That and Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, finds fish her favorite in her assortment of treats. There is something soothing and incredibly soul calming about watching fish swim back and forth gracefully behind their glass walls. To observe them peering out from time to time to inspect those peering in at them. “What big eyes you have Grandma”, they must be thinking, for to them we must look the oddity with our distorted features and huge heads. As a youngster I owned several aquariums. My only pets, as I was an apartment dweller, I took their care seriously. Diligently I cleaned their tank and fed them without any coaxing. A melange of guppies, black mollys, angel fish, neon tetras, a couple of snails and a frog existed in my murky depths . A classmate visiting after school, far more world wise then myself at ten, informed me one of my guppys appeared to be expecting. Not fully sure as yet what precipitated such an event, I watched in fascination as her lower abdomen distended, anxiously awaiting delivery of my new charges. Unfortunately, nobody forewarned me the male of the species view their offspring as a light lunch. I was suitably horrified when the big day came to find the father sucking up the newborns like a floating vacuum as fast as they emerged. My first experience with the harsh realities of the animal kingdom.
In pursuit of ocean centered vacations, I’ve had the pleasure of finding myself in Hawaii four times. On my third trip, the longest, I visited four islands in the same number of weeks. Other than a three day layover in Hilo, where it poured buckets with no rental cars to be had, it was a glorious trip. Our stay began in Oahu. Once we’d satisfied our yen for touristy attractions and nightlife, we boarded a small island hopper to Maui. While in Maui, we stayed in the Napili Kai Beach club. Built in the 1950’s by a Canadian, the resort is situated on the west side of the island, somewhat more secluded than the more mainstream resorts. During our stay, we visited Lahaina often, leaving some money behind in their eclectic art galleries and languishing over lunch watching artists painting in the marina. On our second day, we swam with the whales breeching and playing just beyond the break line. If you would have asked me at that moment to pack my bags and move to a hut on the beach, I would have signed over my house on the mainland without hesitation and taken up residence.
Kauai was listed next on our ticket. You could feel the pace slow when you stepped off the plane. If relaxing is what you’re into to, Kauai is the place to be. At the concierge desk we purchased tickets for the Wailua River Boat Cruise which winds through what is touted as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Besides the natural beauty all around, the trip makes memorable stops as at the Fern Grotto where couples may exchange vows in the huge cave beneath a canopy of lush ferns, if matrimonally inclined. Looking back I can remember being fascinated by an elderly lady sitting directly across from me in the boat. A lovely woman with a broad cockney accent, who chatted me up often during the trip. Dressed in a muumuu splashed with bright tropical blooms made with enough material to substitute for a bed sheet, she accessorized her outfit with thick support hose rolled just above the knees. Even in the most intense blizzard, it would have been impossible to overlook her. Whether due to her generously cut body, the humidity, or her lack of inhibition, she insisted on sitting knees far apart making it necessary to maintain eye contact at all times while sharing a conversation. Most memorable, however, were the mutton-chop whiskers growing out of both sides of her lower jowls. It is a sad statement I recall this as a highlight of my trip, but then, she did have a wicked sense of humor and she was my first and only, at least as of this writing, encounter with a bearded lady.
Fully relaxed after Kauai, our final days were to be spent on the big island of Hawaii. Landing first in Kona and then on to Hilo. Our hotel perched on a cliff high above the surf . Snorkeling classes and a catamaran ride to a state park to swim with the fishes was advertised on a sign in the massive lobby. Before I’d unpacked my bag, I’d signed us up for snorkeling lessons the following day.
We met by the pool after breakfast had settled. Assigned the appropriate gear, a young islander spent several hours patiently teaching us novices how to breathe properly and purge the air out of the snorkel shaft to remain under the surface. Regardless of spending half my life in the water it took me a while and several good aspirations of pool water to get the hang of it. By the time we’d boarded our cat with its vividly colored sails swelling in the wind, I felt confident I had conquered the basics and was eager to begin.
Reaching our destination, the skipper dropped anchor in a glorious bay. Water there was so clear fish could be seen swimming below where the sun cut through the surface. Life jackets secured, and fins and snorkel in place we dropped into the water like raindrops into a bucket. Below the surface was like slipping into another dimension. Seahorses swam up to investigate the new visitors and fish so vivid in color as to not seem real peered at us through eyes rotating on the sides of their heads. At one point a huge school of fish swam past me. For a moment I became part of them before they veered as if one unit to the side and disappeared out of eyesight. What seemed like seconds rather than hours later, we returned to the catamaran for roast pig and tropical drinks. Definitely do it if you’re there and are offered the chance. It’s a memory I highly recommend.
I’ve added a new header for a change of pace. Better or did you prefer the original?? This mustard goes on many things at our house, but particularly like it on these hearty sandwiches.
Hot Pastrami Sandwiches with Tarragon Mustard
1 lb. pastrami heated
4 hard sandwich rolls
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
4 slices horseradish cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/8 cup sour cream
2 tsp. tarragon
1 tsp. fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme)
1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley (or 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes)
4 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together and refrigerate 1 hour before serving.
Heat oven to broil. Cut rolls in half lengthwise and spread butter over cut halves. Place on cooking sheet cut halves up and heat until golden brown. Remove from oven and place horseradish cheese on top half of browned buns. Return only the top halves to the oven and cook until cheese is bubbly.
Slather tarragon mustard on bottom half of buns. Top with hot pastrami. Serve with dill pickle spears.