Every tide brings a different treasure. This is what I’m discovering as I do my Tai Chi by the sea each morning. The tide is right out now, and the air smells tangy. One of my favourite seaweeds sprawls out across the rocks.
It leaves a greeny-gold trail. Neptune’s necklace: what a descriptive name. The beads are hollow, and contain both water and gas, which enables them to float. I just found out that this seaweed has another name (besides Aphrodite’s pearls, which I think I might have made up), and this one made me smile: bubbleweed. I thought about how children can’t resist popping the little bladders and making them burst and spurt, and about the funny post that Penny from lifeonthecutoff wrote about people’s compulsion to pop all the cells in bubblewrap.
Neptune’s necklace also brings back some special memories for me. Back in my artist days I used to make art on the beach. One year I was asked to be ‘artist in residence’ at Tawharanui, one of our regional parks, and to make art on the beach for a day. Whatever could I make?
I decided to make big trails of Neptune’s necklace out of sand, and leave them there for the incoming tide to sculpt and eventually take away.
The photos are in storage, alas, but I found these ‘artist’s notes’ in a file box.
In the course of my research I gathered this seaweed – also known as ‘bladderwort kelp’, and learned about how it mates with itself. On the surface of the individual ‘bladders’ lie the sexual cells. When the conditions are right, the sperm and egg cells all release together in one great burst, and fertilisation occurs. Then at high tide, the fertilised eggs are carried away.
Well, I had quite a pile in my fridge that I’d brought home, luckily placed into a plastic bag, because after a while I heard a strange noise coming from the fridge: a kind of hissing and exploding. I looked inside, and discovered that the pesky kelp was mating with itself in there. Something about the fridge must have created the perfect conditions. (I see from my notes that being cold and dry triggers reproduction).
So now, calmly doing my Tai Chi at low tide, I start to laugh. There wasn’t a move that I knew of, called ‘shaking with laughter’, or ‘smiling fit to burst’, but there is now. I’m afraid my careful moves turned to jelly every time I thought of Neptune’s necklace/Aphrodite’s pearls mating in my fridge. Ah, such memories. I never know what is going to come in on the next tide.