I haven't met a child yet who isn't fascinated by the miniature world inside a tide pool. I remember when I was a little girl I could spend hours watching the hermit crabs and bullheads, and make up stories about them. I gave them names and relationships and wished I could shrink down and join in their adventures.
So it was no hardship when, the evening two guests came to stay, one of them immediately took me on a hike to visit the tide pools.
In the first pool we came to I spotted a sculpin sitting on the bottom, mottled to exactly same design as the rocks around him. Since blending in was his sole defense against inquisitive humans, unlike the darting bullheads who relied on their quicksilver speed to escape, J. had no problem reaching in and picking him up.
"Wow, he's huge!" J. said, comparing him to the smaller bullheads. "And he has evil eyes."
I hadn't thought of it before, but the sculpin was a much less friendly looking fish than the almost comical bullheads.
"I found you a beautiful shell!" J. exclaimed and pulled it free of the water. His face fell as he turned it over. "There's somebody home."
"I guess we'll have to put her back."
J. regretfully returned the pretty shell to its watery world.
He forgot about the disappointment of the inhabited shell when he found, in the next small tide pool, a large sea anemone with all of its feeding tentacles extended.
J. yearned to poke it, just to see its tentacles flash back inside, but he refrained. After all, he knew how much he loved to eat and wouldn't have liked having his dinnertime interrupted by some hulking giant in rubber boots and a red life vest.
"He's missing an arm!" J. dragged me over to a tide pool where a starfish did indeed only have four appendages. It gave him a sadly decapitated look.
"Poor guy," I said. "He's been through the wars."
"Don't worry," J. reassured me. "It'll grow back." He hunkered down, studying the four-legged starfish for a long time. It was obvious he envied the starfish's ability to lose a limb and grow it back, the superhero, with superhero abilities, of the sea world.
We batted the growing swarm of bugs away as a light sprinkle fell and the long summer evening clouded over. It was with extreme reluctance that we headed home.
"We can always come back!" J. told me.