Faithful Living: Penn Cove’s mussel beach

In the depth of winter,

I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

~ Albert Camus

Each time I have rolled up my jeans, pushed my feet into a pair of rubber boots, and made my way to Penn Cove at a low tide this summer, I have wondered why it took me so long to discover the joys of harvesting shellfish.

I’ve always thought our beaches are beautiful beyond description. For 22 years, in fact, I’ve thrilled at the way lush forests meet deep blue waters on our islands. I’ve sat on drift logs and looked out on the water with anticipation that I might see a gray whale or shore birds scamper their way along the edges of the surf. I’ve listened to the rhythm of the waves and the cries of the gulls. I’ve hunted for ocean glass and tossed sticks into the surf for my dog to retrieve. I’ve watched clouds and sailboats.

But it has only been the last two summers that I have realized the joy of clams, mussels, and oysters.

I like the rally call: “Low tide! Meet you at Penn Cove!”

I like announcing to Bear Wells, the chihuahua who has no idea he’s little, that it’s time to go to the beach as I toss into the truck his personal towel and water bottle.

I like grabbing my bag containing hand wipes, gloves, an oyster knife, and a lidded plastic container. I like scooping up my pail, a shovel, and license.

I like digging in the wet sand and feeling for clams. I like wading into the surf to scoop clean saltwater into the pail so I can bathe my catch. I like greeting familiar faces out on the beach and talking about the weather and new recipes.

I like the feel of moist, salty air and not caring what it does to my hair. I like leading in this year’s “biggest mussel” competition that I have going with a friend.

I like everything about the treasures contained in their shells: the cooking, the textures, the flavors, and the people who gather to enjoy them with me.

I like diving into activities that are an inherent part of the Pacific Northwest lifestyle including mushroom gathering and berry picking; coffee and ferries; fleece and water sports.

I like knowing that in a disaster I can look to our island to gift us with life-sustaining food. I like the consistent reminder that God is loving on us using lush natural resources and the wonders of our beautiful location in the Puget Sound.

I like knowing that the chopped clams in my freezer will become fresh clam chowder this fall and there will be a happy memory of their gathering as I sip the soup and take in its warmth. I like knowing that I can store these experiences in my heart and return there when my life is stormy and cold.

In the book of Genesis it says that after God created each part of our world he viewed what He had done, announcing it as good. I take that a step farther this summer: I say, “It is GREAT!” Thank you, God.

Faithful Living columnist Joan Bay Klope can be reached at

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