Gloaming at the seaside. Low tide is late today. I’ve walked out to the naked rocks and sat among the barnacles, listening to their bubbling, the gentle surf, the sound of geese coming to roost on the island. The air is heavy with brine - a smell I can never get enough of, but hesitate to call pleasant.
Looking out over the water, I see the occasional flash of a distant lighthouse. A pod of orcas swam through here a few days ago after breakfast for the second time in a month.
The denizens of tide pools are coming to life. A shaggy mouse nudibranch, Aeolidia papillosa, crawled over my fingers when I crouched beside the water. It moved so slowly that my feet began to cramp as I waited for it to move on. The dark shapes of crabs skitter into the shadows away from my flashlight. Anemones draw themselves inward. Ochre sea stars cling to the undersides of rocks, misshapen, just out of reach. Their genus name, Pisaster, hints at the mysterious wasting epidemic that struck these creatures in recent years - “sea star-associated densovirus”, or SSaDV. The disease has wiped out scores of sea stars all along the West Coast since 2013, dissolving their bodies into formless goo. A Pisaster disaster.