Woods Cove

By Cynthia Belmont

December 16, 2019

Woods Cove

My younger sister who is dead of cancer now is returning to the tide pools soon because I’m going to bring her. I’m going to put her back, or something meaning her, which is a palmful of calcium phosphate and sodium, powdery ash sparkling with bits of bone like a beach studded with washed-up exoskeletons and shards of mollusk. But she was always elemental, squatting in the tide pool ridges as a child, petting the shelly squishing anemones with her slim index finger, lying in the still water, her stomach cresting between ruffled brown bikini halves.

Picking our way along the barnacled rocks, we were careful not to injure anything, even the snails. We were among the few who ventured here in the 1970s, climbing the crags barefoot, hopping between scratchy boulders, hunched over the hermit crab villages, before so many tourists came to Laguna, and with them signs—Danger, Keep Off, Protected Area. It would just be us and maybe an old guy in a wet suit, another summer resident or local.

The life in these coastal margins is sparser now, stripped of extravagance, down to survivors. A few darting fish, the odd crab, glossy black clusters of mussels clinging here and there at the brim of the booming surf.

It’s risky getting to these pools. You could drown if you caught your foot under a ledge in a rush of tide. But we were smart. And quick. And lucky, all those years.


Cynthia Belmont is Professor of English and Gender Studies at Northland College, an environmental liberal arts school on the South Shore of Lake Superior, in Ashland, WI. She has published in diverse journals, including Poetry, Oyez Review, Cream City Review, Natural Bridge, and Terrain.org.

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