| Sunday Holy Eucharist
GET IN TOUCH
between Atlantic and Beach
Beach Haven, New Jersey 08008
Perhaps you're a visitor on Long Beach Island. Maybe you haven't been in Church for a while and would like to start back. Whatever is going on in your life, you are welcome at Holy Innocents. Your past affiliations don't mean nearly as much to us as your present affiliation with us.
The time for chowder is coming; perhaps as in no previous Autumn in living memory, the rich comfort food we call chowder will be welcome. Making chowder is as satisfying as eating it. I think we need to go clamming. It has been a Hellish year without any significant time off...clamming will do us good. There is an immediate satisfaction when the clam comes to hand- an accomplishment, albeit a minor one, that produces a righteous feeling from stewarding a resource and obtaining nourishment into the bargain. Clamming is slow and that’s good. We need slow right now. Even and especially when slow seems frustrating, it can be a learning moment. “Instructively slow” can take many forms when clamming. While hosting a novice some years ago, she raked a clam and as she withdrew it from the water, the clam slipped out of her hand and back into the water at her feet. She moaned. I quietly said: “It can’t run away.”
She understood instantly and her face brightened; she reached down at her feet, and retrieved the clam, wiser about herself and her surroundings than a moment before….”slow” providing fast learning about self and shellfish…just one example. Clamming shows us some things we need to be reminded about. The personal harvesting method is perhaps most instructive in its deliberate slowness. There are those who tong. There are those who rake. There are those who tread. Any of these methods can teach the willing.
Tongs are just what you’d expect- a tool with scissor-joined handles perhaps ten feet long- (kind of like a very long posthole digger)- with opposing rake-shaped jaws at one end. From the boat, in deeper water and any weather, pros tong. The tong is opened and lowered onto the bottom; the sound and feeling through the handles is said to be that of grasping rocks. When full, the handles close the jaws and in short snatches, the handles are grasped and elevated; whatever has been tonged is brought aboard and sorted. This is a slow but productive way for a person making their living to mine the riches of the sand and mud- even when it’s sleeting and 20°F. It is a humbling sight to observe a Gründen’s-clad figure leaned over the gunwale of a garvey in a 20kt NNW wind, sleet flying, working the tongs. The baymen who tong are the people we see around here whose shoulders are as broad as a boulder and twice as hard. Then there are the rakers. I am among them. Though some pros rake from the boat with a long handled stainless-steel rake, a scratch rake generally assumes an amateur working out of the boat at low tide. The scratch rake is drawn gently across the bottom, either mud or sand. The steel fingers of the rake scratch across the shell, and that sound and feeling are transmitted through the rake’s handle. The rake is pushed forward slightly, drawn back over the clam more deeply, it is caught and up it comes. After a while, one can tell the difference in sound and feel between a clam and any other shell…moon snails and crabs and emptied shells and all sorts of other junk buried in the bottom can make a sound, but a live clam’s shell makes a distinctive scratching sound that is pleasingly urgent in its nails-on-the-blackboard tone. An amateur can fill a recreational license’s limit of 150 clams/day in 90 minutes in a good spot on the right tide. And even if the tide’s off and the spot sparse, the wading is fun, you never leave empty-handed, and you never know what’ll come up. I have raked up crabs. I’ve caught flounder while raking clams…in-their-heads fierce in their glare, grossly-undersized, these floppy flat fish seem glad to be returned to the bottom to swim away and grow “legal.” Then there are the treaders. Treading insists upon water warm enough and shallow enough to wade. These are the folk who can walk the bottom barefooted or even in flip-flops, and feel the clams beneath their feet in the bottom. I regard treaders as superior beings. I am awed and baffled by their sensitivity and skill. Gifted like a robin actually hearing a worm in the ground, treaders walk the bottom sensing a hard clam inches beneath them in the bottom. I could step on a bowling ball and not feel it; clams are not large enough to stumble over, and that’s what I’d need to be a treader. To nearly intuit the presence of a clam is remarkable. One of our daughters and our son are treaders. If it’s genetic, this gift came to them through their Mother because I am absolutely certain it could not have come from me. I enjoy clamming with treaders; they find a clam and it is as though they’ve won at hide-and-seek…a sweet smile and are remark signaling: “Gotcha.” However they’re found, the clams are put, not tossed or dropped but PUT, into a galvanized-wire basket. That basket rides in an inner-tube bought for the purpose. The inner tube is large enough so that as it sits in the inner tube, the bottom of the basket is covered in sea water. As they are harvested, the clams gently rinse in sea water and stay cool even in direct sunlight. It is best to tie off a line through one’s waistband and the top edge of the basket…that way you tow the basket as you walk, and it’s easy to pull to you as you add clams. The great Grace of clamming is that once one has found one’s method, success is quick and generous. Tongers, treaders, rakers…makes no difference. Once you’ve made friends with the tool of choice- when you’re on your game doing what you are gifted to do- the return is so clear and generous and encouraging. We have spent a year waiting on hostile insurance companies. We’ve spent a year waiting for ponderous unseeing governmental agencies to respond. We’ve spent a year waiting for well-meaning contractors who are stretched too thin. The waiting has become the work, not the preparation for the work. Enough. Let’s go clamming. Love you. See you in Church. FBC3+