Her tender toes curled and uncurled, rippling the surface of the water. The tide had gone out, leaving behind a world of wonder in the hollow of the porous rock. Thousands of similar pools nestled in the sculpted rocks along the shore, but Naomi’s world only included the pool she had adopted as her own domain, along with the creatures who called it home. The salty air wrapped around her like a blanket and muffled the rhythm of the waves below.
Although Naomi considered herself the queen of this particular tide pool, the spiny urchin was clearly the king. After all, his crown dwarfed the rest of his body, and who would dare to argue with so many spikes? Naomi winced as she reached out her big toe and tapped the king on the head, yanking her foot back lest he sting her. When she examined her foot and found no damage, she dipped her toes back into the water and tickled the bottom of her foot on the king’s spiny crown, giggling over her secret pleasure.
Naomi’s attention turned to the peasants of her barnacled kingdom: the hermit crabs. At first she saw three crabs, but as she watched them crawl to and fro along the rocky bottom, she realized they had companions who must be sleeping, hidden in their decorative shells. She was not brave enough to touch the crabs, although she knew they were friendly. She watched them go about their business, which certainly did not seem very urgent or interesting.
The noble starfish delighted Naomi. She mustered all her courage and reached her pudgy hand into the clear water, gently stroking its back. It felt rough and scaly. It didn’t move at all and Naomi wasn’t sure it was alive as she picked it up and examined its white belly, but when its spines waved a little in the air she almost dropped it. She put the distinguished gentleman back down exactly where she found him and gave a nod of respect, remembering her mother’s words:
“Always put the creatures back in their favorite place, Naomi. They find the spot where the sunshine is just right for them, and the ocean can bring them the food they need. If you aren’t careful to put them back in that just-right spot, they could die.”
There were two anemones, a pair of court jesters: a big purplish-red one, and a smaller bright green one. Naomi couldn’t decide if they were pretty or scary. It looked like they had belly buttons in the middle, but she kept her eye on their waving hair. After a minute or two she reached out her hand and softly brushed the tentacles. They were sticky and reached toward her hand, then folded down toward the belly button. She tugged her finger away and didn’t touch them again.
A chilly breeze whispered in off the water and goosebumps rose up on Naomi’s arms. Her mother and older brother were still collecting mussels from the rocks several yards away. She smiled as she thought of a steaming bowl of buttery mussels for dinner. Gulls screeched overhead and hopped around the tide pools looking for juicy snacks. As the waves foamed in and out among the rocks, Naomi sang:
The birds eat the crabs,
We eat the mussels,
The ocean brings the food for these guys in the water.
Everybody gets some dinner,
Yummy yummy yummy yummy dinner!
And the ocean helps us all stay alive.
Thank you, Jesus, for the ocean.
Naomi glanced back down at her little kingdom and noticed an intruder – a sneaky fellow that hid in the cracks and slunk around like a many-legged worm with a bulby head. She crouched down to get a better look at the marauder. A baby octopus! He slid behind a clump of kelp, seeming to prefer shade.
Naomi’s courage dried up. She pulled her wrinkled toes out of the pool lest the octopus try to climb her leg like a slippery spider. With a shudder, she wiggled her toes into her flip-flops and abandoned her kingdom to the care of the sea.
The featured artwork titled “Naomi’s Tide Pool” is (c) Athena Williams and is used with her gracious permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Athena lives and writes in Colorado Springs, where she can look up at the mountains and be reminded of the nearness of God. Hiking, reading, and spending time with her family are her passions. She and her husband, Jon, are actively involved in the Anselm Society, and they also run a ministry for blended families at their church. Whether through fiction, nonfiction or poetry, Athena loves to use words to paint portraits that display the work that God does within each person.