Monday, May 17, 2010

On a Day in May

Walking back to the road, we met an anthropologist on the trail heading toward the beach with her little spindly dog. Curious about all the bags and stuff we were dragging, she tells us she about her anthropologizing which she does for an eco-company in Sacramento. They do contract work for developers. When Native American shell mounds, burial remains and various artifacts, are uncovered in digging, California law stipulates any pre-European finds need to be investigated. We want to show her our artifacts, digging in our pockets for some of the champion things we've found today. Amazing day really, this late in the season—usually by this time of year, the California Current has returned, sweeping the beach pretty much clear. But we've found loads of things that are really top-notch for our treasure trove. Strangely, we loaded up with a couple dozen plastic drink bottles—all from Asia. We've never seen so many before from Asia, typically they are the water and soft drink bottles bought by the case at Costco.

We found (Judith found) four soldiers and a very sea-worn palm size Godzilla. Rare even in the high season, this many little figures. But best of all, Judith found a doll's hand with the two middle fingers pressed against the palm, index and pinky raised like horns, metal band style. The anthropologist brightens at the weird context, and something tiny laden with so much meaning. Heavy Metal baby doll? The horns of Satan? We comment - devil is indeed at work spoiling the world with his plastic crapulosity.

At home we do the usual web search and find the rock-n-roll sign but the thumb is holding down the two middle fingers. This little pudgy hand has the thumb out hitchhiker style. Oh! Of course it’s the sign-language hand gesture for I love you and we find a doll called the “Richard” with that very same hand gesture. Oh, sweet. But truly the day was sweet, finding amazing things for our project and best of all high on the sandstone cliff we saw the telltale white wash of a raptor's nest. And lucky us, a birder set up an excellent spotting scope so we could peer right into the nest,which she invited us to do. There were four baby Peregrines almost fledged out, puffs of down poking our under the flight feathers, like they'd put their cloths on over their PJ's. And double bonus, the swallows have come back. I'd been fretting for two weeks at their tardy return, thinking another loss was going to break my heart, but there they are, in droves. Lucky little love hand pointing the direction on a day in May.

This red piece is a small part of a much larger story- click here to read all about it. Amazing that eight years later this fragment just washed up.
To view the Nest Cam of Peregrines in San Francisco- click here

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Naming the Floats

Boat Brand fishing float. We have some fifty in our collection. A three-masted schooner sailing a sea above the "trade mark" sign. Why are they are the same salmon-y-pink color as the parts of Barbie and Kens we find? Who knows? 

The "Lucky Brand" floats, which we also find, are a pale beige. Lucky Brand has a circle logo with the image of two fish, Pisces-horoscope style, swimming above and below one another. Now, just who decided what the things were going to be called? Is it wishful thinking? 

Fisherman are a superstitious lot. There is some science to it all, and a good fisherman tries for the repeatability of science, but a friend of ours who worked for the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the World Bank told us a story of trying to introduce a little science to Malaysian fisherman. They scoffed—if Allah wants us to catch fish, we will catch fish. We pray to Allah for fish.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Looks like this little fella is from the Wehrmacht given his helmet and the rest of the kit he’s toting. Poised, ready to shoot, a cog in Der F├╝rer’s army. He’s been out there at sea a long long time, finally coming to rest on Kehoe Beach, home from the war. He’s sporting mineralized skeletons of Bryozoans. 

Bryozoans have a varied gendered life cycle and body parts that show that they are the level of complexity of earthworms. They make colonies, distinctive little homes for themselves and are a sure tell that a piece of plastic has been at sea a long time.

Our little Wehrmacht Soldat reminds us that great armies rise and fall, but plastic is forever.