June 18, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Traditions, Travel, Trips to the US

A few blogs back, I introduced you all to some of the very uniquely fantastic jobs that can be found in Spain. One of them was the mariscadora (best described as an awesome shellfish digger lady) – a job that I’ve had my eye on for awhile now because I believe I am particularly qualified. Why? Well, it just so happens that I’ve perfected my shellfish hunting skills after a lifetime of digging clams on my grandparents’ beach on the island of Vashon in Washingon’s Puget Sound. Yes my friends, I like to hunker down in the rocky island mud with my rake and bucket and hack away at the land to find those happy little shellfish – clams.

It’s an especially gratifying task on so many levels. You aggressively scrape at the pebbles, shells and crabs using your “where’s Waldo” eye to spot the ribbed texture of the clams. There’s something about the rhythmic raking of the land, the peaceful lapping of the tide, and the resulting pride of conquest, that make the experience a soothing one. Never mind the muddy hands, burning hamstrings and aching back – it’s a labor of love! When you see your bucket full of shellfish grinning back at you, you can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment.

I’m reminded of this as I’ve spent the last couple days in the US taking in the expansive view of my grandparents’ harbor. I can hear the beach calling my name – to dig that is. It’s not a tropical beach by any stretch of the imagination – and not just because it’s in Washington where sunny days seem to be far and few between. These beaches are rocky and covered in a blanket of barnacles and muscles. Walking along the shores during low tide, the only sounds you hear are those of the shells and rocks crushing beneath your feet, the peaceful ebb and flow of the water, and the constant chatter of the seagulls. These are the sounds of tranquillity, but not of piña coladas (although I could go for one right about now).

Vashon proudly considers itself weird – no joke. Many cars brandish a bumper sticker declaring “keep Vashon weird.” It’s a flash back in time – virtually nothing has changed in my lifetime of making trips here. And there’s something about this that is so refreshing. Considering you have to take a ferry just to get to the island, you are truly isolated in a land unto itself. All the more reason to focus and hone your clam digging skills, don’t ya think?

So yes, as I sit here stranded on this weird little island, I find myself relishing in the opportunity to build my shellfish-digging resume in hopes that one day I can be a mighty fine mariscadora.

With that, I do believe it’s time to go check on my happy little clammies and change their water.