Sheila A McHugh, Spring Tide Frolics

Sheila is an Achill islander by birth and bearing. The island’s land and seascape, history and people have influenced her and her writing.

The setting for this story is the ebb-tide shoreline with its multifarious sea algae and life-teeming rock pools. The curious who step into this ever-changing liminal space discover that relationships here are as mutually dependent and tenuous as in the human realm.

The Seaweed Ball was to be the highlight of the Lunar Bioluminescent Festival and Nori had been chosen as Festival Queen. She had been attracting much international attention because of her understated goodness and her potential to help in the treatment of some disease.  Nori couldn’t wait to receive the newly commissioned bioluminescent festival crown. She already had her body-hugging, electric green-brown, see-through gown for the occasion.

She hoped that the dark, somewhat shy Osmundia Pinnatifida would be there; he was nicknamed ‘pepper dulse’ because he was a hot favourite with the New Age sea-veggie type. But Nori didn’t worry about them; she and Os went back a long time. Though they were from different intertidal regions, they were brought together by serving the needs of others in more turbulent times, and now this was being recognised.

Advertising for the festival was already well under way. The Current Review, having invested in the most advanced whirlpool vortex ultrasonic technology, had daily ‘ping’ transmission on alternating currents, ensuring broad coverage. The energy was palpable at every level. Even the oceanic tidal waves were cresting with excitement.

There would be something for everyone; a star-studded performance was guaranteed. Laminaria Digita, renowned for her holdfast quality and flexibility, made sure of that. An electronic whizz with the Eclectic Eel Trio, Laminaria had booked a support Rock band for the way-out Wakame kelp types, as well as a colourful coral group for the closer to shore, curly Carrageen types. The intertidal Sargassum Wrackers and the Pelvetia Fucoids could bubble and flounce to the sound of the Turning Tide orchestra. She even found a Japanese group, the Sushi Sisters, who would add an oriental flavour to the evening. Laminaria intended to wear a traditional outfit: a long, golden-brown, imitation leather gown with one over-the-shoulder strap to secure it in place.

Lunar lighting, especially organised for the occasion, would flood the intertidal zone with its special celestial effects. Negotiations had taken place between the main energy company, Sun Inc, the Earth Co-op and Lunar Lighting to line up their resources for the evening. It was agreed that there would be a four-hour nocturnal window during which the Ball would take place.

Many would be there for the first time, from the dark recesses of their underwater world; bioluminescence dripping from smoochy, velvet horns and ruffled sweet kombus.

They had waited a long time for this. Stories were held in the memory fronds of a time when disease nearly wiped out the whole colony. The smell of death had permeated the waters and the air round and about. Word had it that a monster with a shake-like form had spewed a strange, foul-smelling substance into the water from the shoreline.

Life in the immediate vicinity had begun to die first, creeping disease causing all kinds of deformities of life in the incubator rock pools. Hermit crabs were no longer seen, then the plant life began to wither and die. The lore of the sea didn’t have a name for this monster. Humans who cared mixed their salty tears with the weakened polluted water. Those tears nurtured seedlings of hope that the monster would not return. Gradually with each changing tide, the remnants of death were slowly washed from memory.

The organisers of this celebratory spectacular hope it will heal relationships of past events and remind all of their mutual dependency. Laminaria and her team are planning that this will become a twice-yearly event held each spring and autumn. So, please come along; get some sand between your toes and enjoy some home-grown eccentricity and complimentary fruit de mer.

Tickets for the ball (printed on beautiful, dark-purple duileasc fronds with natural octopus ink) are available through Laminaria’s Twitter account, @Algae Rocker, or from local clean-water outlets between mid and low tide. Please refrain from consuming your ticket before the event as it must be presented at the high-water mark entry point as proof of purchase.

Guests are asked to wear florescent wetsuits or lunar-powered bathing suits to add that extra sine qua non to the occasion.

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