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The Day’s Delight: Analog Database

I walked down to the ocean this afternoon. The tide was midway out, a huge expanse of beach and shallow breakers rolling in. The breeze was cool but the sun was warm, and it was a delight to walk on sand, both soft and warm as well as packed smooth from the waves.

I walked out and back and picked up treasures: shells and smooth-worn stones and a piece of china plate I imagine sank with a fine ship a hundred years ago. I bent down and took pictures and tried to guess what the mysterious clear blobs of jelly were. Eggs?

Then I came across a larger disc of jelly with opaque striations, and I wondered, could it be the obvious?

“What do you think it is?” a voice asked me. I looked up, and there was a girl, Rosalyn, age eight (I asked). She had dark hair and wore a full black wetsuit. “I think it’s a jellyfish,” she said at once, answering her own question. “We went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and saw some and they looked like that. But it must be dead. It doesn’t have any arms or legs, and you can’t really be alive with no arms or legs, and since it’s dead it can’t sting you.

“You can’t see it because it’s on the sand, but it has a star pattern on the bottom.” (I turned it over and, sure enough, like an apple sliced horizontally, it did.) “I used to think a starfish was stuck to it,” Rosalyn said, “until I went to the aquarium, but that’s just part of their body.”

We talked about the shark tunnel at the aquarium and the fourth of July and our vacations and where I should go to see fireworks (Beverly Beach). I loved how easy it was for her to talk to me– that she had seen a “grown-up” being extremely curious about something she was also curious about, and had just walked over to talk. I loved that her mom, seated not far away, hadn’t held her back out of politeness or fear of stranger danger. I loved Rosalyn’s unbridled energy, her at-homeness in the world.

And I loved that this kid who I will probably never see again answered the question I hadn’t wanted to Google: what was this mystery blob on the beach?

I hope she has a great vacation– I have no doubt she will.


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