Mussel hunting may be best accomplished in a little boat, floating quietly and closely toward the big rocks that sit half exposed, half submerged in the cove's tide. Since my rowboat is now up on dry land, I searched by walking along the shore at low tide, sometimes lifting up the shiny black strands of seaweed that festoon the rocks, peering beneath for sight of shiny black mussels clinging in colonies to the rock's surface.
The ebbing tide reveals abundant fields of rockweed. Underwater, when the tide is higher, the plants are in their element and they wave about gracefully, their branches floating on tiny balloons of air, their stems firmly attached to the shore's rocks. They are in their element at low tide, too, though their element has changed. Now they lie along the rocks, fully exposed to air and sunlight. They thrive in this constant process of ebb and flow.
Since I am hunting mussels at low tide I walk out on rockweed to reach the bigger rocks. They are slick masses that obscure the rocks, which are themselves unstable, having been thrown here by storm and waves, and being just as likely to roll away again: another constantly changing element. I walk slowly, a balancing act. Really, no matter how well you study the situation, there is too much that is unknown, and no telling what will happen until you take the next step. It's probably foolish of me to be walking here.
The mink may think as much. He pops his head up and stares at me, then flattens himself against his home rock, mink coat blending perfectly with his eelgrass cover. I watch him for a while. I would like to make my peace with him and his kin. I have held it against them that they are not native to the island. But neither are the sheep, or the deer, or us, for that matter. He is a part of something that is always changing. I wish the mink would confine themselves to the shore and not go hunting around our house and along the lower road for snakes and rabbits. But maybe they were especially hungry this summer. Maybe the fish didn't come into the cove as plentifully as in years past. Anyway, the mink belong to the island's reality as much as I do.I did find something we had been hunting for: the boundary rock marked with Jonathan Perry's initials. It stands at the southwest corner of Jonathan's original plot, the one he bought from the first lighthouse keeper and later divided between his two sons. On the Grant Map of 1784 this is part of Lot Number One, granted to Moses Pitcher, glazier, one of thousands of American colonists who chose loyalty to the British during the American Revolution. In some ways the Loyalists were flotsam and jetsam along the rocky shores of Empire. Some of them took root here. Most -- including Moses Pitcher -- rolled out again on the ebb tide. For now his property belongs to us by deed, and to the mink by squat, and to the mussels whether I can find them or not.