I woke before the sun, when the lavender sky still slept soundly and the pale moon still wept her starry tears.
I could hear the distant lap of low tide – a voice, beckoning me to the shore, to the ocean. My ocean.
Soon my room glowed with dim morning sunlight. I clambered out of my warm covers, tiptoeing barefoot over creaky wood toward the mirror. The careful breeze blew through the window and stirred my messy head of auburn hair, stray hairs fell into my face; I blinked the drowsiness from my eyes.
“As blue as the ocean,” my mother would say. She was still asleep in her room. I found a pair of jean-shorts and a loose periwinkle T-shirt. I slipped them on, fastening the silver latch of my lucky necklace behind my neck. A small black and white crab claw hung from a silver chain, jagged pincers reaching for the dappled dawn light.
I sneaked through the dark, small house, tripping over piles of books and making stumbling leaps over the seashells my mother and I collected. Every day, at 7:25 in the morning the sky is purple like the cowrie shells we find on the beach; the clouds are the orange-red of alphabet cones. The sea is almost as silent as my mother and me when we search for its treasures.
I reached the front door, groping for and twisting its handle. Wincing at the squeaks, I opened it. A comforting burst of cool air flowed in, and pale sunlight washed over the dark house like a wave at high tide. Our marine treasures shone like sea glass in the beautiful light.
Trees clung to soft, sandy soil as I walked among them. I could smell the mist from the ocean, my ocean, as I walked with the rising leaf-dappled dawn sun. The gentle lapping became louder as I trekked closer to my beloved beach; I climbed up a sandy ridge dotted with crowsfoot grass, its jagged oats bobbing in the breeze.
I tottered on top of the mound of sand my mother left behind, like a hermit crab’s outgrown shell. The low tide sparkled with a pink morning glow, the calm blue of the ocean, my ocean, now a soft purple. Waves washed gently on a white sand beach. I slid down the ridge with sand gathering between my toes.
I ran toward the ocean but was still a few yards away from the seemingly endless shore, when something caught my eye – tiny gleaming oceans in small rocky outcroppings far from low tide’s reach.
I walked over to the nearest one and peered into the little pool of trapped seawater. Clinging onto a rock was an orange sea star smaller than my hand, moving slowly over to some unlucky black mussels that were attached to the rock just next to it. In the clear water, I saw colorful gobies swimming through holes bored into the rock by greedy shipworms, some peeking back out with round black eyes. Purple and red anemones of all sizes sat exposed at the bottom of the pool, their many tentacles reaching for the rippling surface as I bent over them.
In this small puddle between a few rocks, was an entire world. A whole little universe of life and death, where every creature is beautiful, where every creature is special, where all is peaceful, where the only threats are hungry orange starfish smaller than a 12-year-old girl’s hand.
I sat on a wet rock next to the tide pool and dipped my toes into the cool seawater. Gobies darted away when my feet came near, scattering into their rock homes. One hovered near my foot then nipped it and swam quickly away.
I smiled and bent down over some small anemones, taking the fragment of a pen shell and submerging my hand, cupping the small seashell, into the pool. It left soft ripples in my wake. I poked one of the anemone’s waving tentacles softly and, with a tiny gush of bubbles, the little animal retracted sharply into a pale lavender bulb.
I watched in awe as the other anemones followed suit. When the last of the bubbles disappeared, the floor of the tide pool was covered with pink and lavender bulbs, like an abstract painting of the sky overhead. I laughed when I noticed a starfish nestled on my foot. The little invertebrate loosened its grip slightly, and I pulled it gently off, the tide pool’s clear water rippling at my wrists. I took my hands out of the water and shook them, sending glittering arcs of water leaping from my fingertips.
“Goodbye,” I whispered to the little world under me. I turned to a smaller one nearby. It had a fat red anemone at the bottom on a rocky surface; its ruby tentacles waved in the still seawater, as if it were trying to grab my attention. I bent closer. There were two crabs: one large and one small. The largest crab was brownish-orange and was as big as the anemone; the small crab was black and white, and it looked as if its claw could’ve attached to my lucky necklace. The two crabs were fighting, the bigger crab jabbing at the smaller one with sharp claws. The small crab backed up helplessly, skittering over the rocky sand. I reached into the shallow water to bring the little crab out, but the brown crab saw my fingers and pinched one with a jagged claw.
“Ah!” My hand jerked quickly out of the water, a small cut stinging on my index finger. I put it into my mouth and, not wanting to get cut again, only watched the combat continue. I held my lucky necklace in my uninjured hand, praying that the little crab would scuttle to safety.
The brown crab poked against the anemone, which immediately retracted, and, as if it were a cliché action movie villain, raised a claw to deliver a blow. Right as it did, the black and white crab raised one of its claws as well, and began fighting back.
I watched them in awe, my back to the rising red sun and the ocean. Then I heard a voice, as smooth as the surface of the tide pools, as comforting as the morning breeze.
It was my mother, calling my name. I looked up over the field of tide pools; they were already disappearing, the tide steadily rising, swallowing up the little worlds of water and stone. The sun was getting higher, and the sky was turning purple like cowries and the clouds were turning orange-red like alphabet cones. It was 7:25. I stood up with my finger still in my mouth. I could see my mother’s head just over the sandy ridge, her long brown hair tied in a bun, a smile on her face, and her eyes sparkling as blue as the ocean.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.