Wonderful Waterful Wednesday: Living on the Edge

…all things are one thing and that one thing is all things—plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.

John Steinbeck (The Log from the Sea of Cortez)

Sea grass and kelp at Bodega Bay, CA
Bright green sea grass and shiny kelp at California's Bodega Head. Photo: David Liittschwager/National Geographic

I love tidepools, those bits of ocean left behind when the moon lures the water away for a while. They’re microcosms of the sea, featuring much of the diversity and spectacle that makes the ocean so extraordinary, in a tiny and accessible place. I wrote a blog post on these “sometimes oceans” a few weeks ago, which you can find here.

This week National Geographic has given me a wonderful opportunity to return to these incredible places. (All photos are from the June 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands May 31).

Photo: Brandon Cole/National Geographic

In “Brimming Pools,” author Mel White and photographer David Liittschwager explore the pools of the Pacific Northwest. The unique climate and geology of this region gives it the most diverse and spectacular tide pools in the world. The cold upwelling waters off the West Coast bring abundant nutrients to the shore. Frequent fogs protects exposed sea creatures from the sun and the absence of hard freezes mean the rocks are not scraped free of life in the winters.

Among the creatures described in the article is a species of Pisaster – a sea star. These creatures are remarkably strong and patient. A sea star will crawl along the tidepool floor looking for bivalves like mussels or clams.

When it finds one, it grabs onto the two halves of the shell and pulls, using its tiny suckers for leverage. When it’s pried the shell open far enough, it everts its stomachs into the shell and digests its meal. I kid you not.

Sea stars are far from the most bizarre creatures found in tidepools. Here’s a great composite of some of the creatures found in the pools of the Pacific Northwest.

The rocks and pools of the intertidal zone are home to an array of creatures fancifully named for their shapes and colors. Photo credit: David Liittschwager/National Geographic

For those so inclined, here are the names of these critters:

From top First row: red abalone, Cockerell’s dorid, ringed nudibranch, variegate amphissa, grainyhand hermit crab, ochre sea star, cabezon

Second row: red octopus, opalescent nudibranch, mermaid’s cup, smooth iridescent seaweed, San Diego lamellaria, purple sea urchin, hammerhead doto, leather star

Third row: red rock crab, calico sculpin, colorful dendronotus, stubby frond nudibranch, rough limpet, calico sculpin

Fourth row: red sponge nudibranch, chink snail, woody chiton, nereid worm, syllid polychaete, peanut worm, brown turban snail, red sea fern

Fifth row: shield limpet, sea clown nudibranch, red sea fan, monkeyface prickleback, bat star, green rope, red rock crab, flat porcelain crab

Sixth row: splendid iridescent seaweed, Farlow’s soft seaweed, blood star, six-armed star, Pacific sea comb, glycerid worm, sea palm, red gunnel, tinted wentletrap, surf grass, red sea cucumber

National Geographic June 2011 coverThis article and more can be found in the June issue of National Geographic.  Check out the article featured on the cover about how stone pillars in Turkey are inspiring anthropologists to re-examine their assumptions about when and why religion began. Enjoy!

Blogging and Writing and Blocks – Oh My!

Writing is going well. Checking in during the Round of Words in 80 Days? Not so much. I’ve come to the conclusion that Sunday blog posts are just not going to work for me. Sunday is for family and it’s really difficult to get time in front of the computer. When I do, I prefer to work on my fiction. So I’m dropping the Sunday update and focusing on Wednesday instead.

Overall, blogging has been a bit erratic lately. I’ve started a new writing project with a serious deadline – getting it up and running took up a lot of attention. I kept to at least one post a week but I prefer to do more than that.

I’ve committed to at least twice a week (“Wonderful Waterful Wednesdays” and “I’m Diggin’ Fridays”) and I’m thinking about adding a mash-up post on Mondays. An odd day for a summary, I know, but it’s the only one that fits into my schedule.

The fiction is going well. For the first time I’ve written out a synopsis before starting to write. It’s functioning as an outline, which is totally odd for me but working.

I hit a serious block about 4500 words into it. (It’s a short – I’m aiming for 10,000 to 15,000 words). What I’d written was awful. Not the first draft kind of crap – I mean totally flat. There wasn’t a single line that I liked. Not a good sign.

I took a step back and thought about the problem and realized that I just didn’t like my main characters. I didn’t get them and couldn’t write them. After some brainstorming with my husband (he’s great at it) I figured out what I needed to do; how I needed to change them.

It worked. In the last two days I’ve written 2500 words with very little effort. Whew!

And You?

Ever played in a tidepool? Touched a live a sea star? (Never gonna look at them the same way, eh?) Found your way over, under, around or through writer’s block? Let us know in the comments below! And remember to check back on Friday to see how my garden is growing – and tell me all about yours.

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

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9 thoughts on “Wonderful Waterful Wednesday: Living on the Edge

  1. Love the photos of the tide pools and sea life. I’ve been to the tide pools at Laguna Beach, CA. We always called sea stars “star fish.” I never would have guessed they did such amazing tricks for a meal!
    My writing is slow going, thanks to a brain fried from technological OD, but it feels good to have a lot of these things behind me now so I can get back to some serious revisions on my novel. Looking forward to seeing how your garden grows!

  2. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I remember looking into tide pools whenever we visited the beach, as well as studying them in school. I think we even had a school field trip to see tide pools once. They’re always fun to look at. We were always trying to find the sea stars because those were our favorites.

    My blogging has been a bit erratic as well. Trying to work on a schedule that works for me as well.

    1. So cool that you had these in your backyard! I grew up on Long Island so I had the sea but few rocky areas.

      I find that a schedule is essential – otherwise my blogging would be so erratic, readers would report a missing person. Good luck developing one that works for you.

  3. Danielle, thanks for sharing the magical world of tide pools. The sea star you describe would make a good (i.e., cheesy good) SyFy original movie, if it were ten feet wide; I might watch “Pisaster Disaster!”

    Also glad to see you highlight NatlGeo. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting editors of the magazine as well as some of the freelance writers and photographers. Kudos to a publication that values talented creatives and gives them a format to profit from their excellence.

    1. “Pisaster Disaster?” I’d go see it for sure!

      The Nat Geo folks reached out to me a few months ago and I’ve been grateful ever since. They have great writers and photographers and such cool topics. Yes, they deserve kudos and more.

  4. The photos are gorgeous–I felt my blood pressure going down just looking at ’em.

    Good for you, re: the writing and blogging. Hey, my “mash up” is on Monday, too. Why not? great way to start the week, I think.

    1. Glad to hear the blog is good for your health!

      If the Monday mash-up works for you then I’m going to go for it – but probably not until July. Too much work and writing to do!

  5. Pingback: Throw it Out Thursday 6/23/11 « Melissa Smith Blog

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