May 10, 2010


I managed to get in my first kayak trip of the season last week, right before I descended into a four day hell of allergic insanity during which I was confined to the house by an influx of some unknown, unseen assailant. I am amazed by my body's ability to overreact. The kayak trip was lovely; I paddled out to the Hole in the Wall, the little chain of sandy islands that protect Milford Haven from the rougher Chesapeake Bay. I walked around the largest island for about an hour, hoping to come across either a duck nest or some wild asparagus. I found neither, but enjoyed myself nonetheless. Asparagusin' is a local past time. Wild asparagus is common in the marshes, and if you know where to look you can reap a plentiful harvest of pencil-slender spears of the most delicate, lovely asparagus imaginable. Knowing where to look is the hard part, and in the days of yore it was the crabbers who tended to know best. They marked off the patches during the summer, when the asparagus fern is easy to sight, and returned in late April to asparagus. My granddaddy used to asparagus as a boy; he and friends would scrounge the muddy shallows for the elusive vegetable and sell big rubber banded bundles to the neighbors in Mobjack. Novice that I am, I failed to note the some four asparagus plants on my property before winter fell and the fern disappeared. By the time I could find the plants this spring, the asparagus had gone woody--past the point of edibility. Next year I will not be so unprepared.

Despite a lack of asparagus/duck nests, I did have a lovely time on the little island, scaring sandpipers and poking around the empty duck hides. I'm glad I did when I had the chance; my allergy induced convalescence lasted out the hot weather, and I find that now that I am well it is cool and windy. Crab season has begun, and the crabs are plentiful this year for the first time since I was a child. The local restaurants and seafood shops proudly boast signs for soft shell crabs, a local delicacy that I have never quite wrapped my palette around. Soft shell crab sandwiches consist of a deep-fried whole soft shell crab (they look like spiders) in a bun. The legs hang out the sides. It's a little too much for the come-here in me to handle. Look at some pictures online. I dare you to claim you would do better. Crab cakes I can handle. Cracking crabs I find sort of viciously delightful. We used to throw our own crab pots overboard at the end of the dock, baited with an unlucky croaker from the morning's fishing adventure. Sometimes Laura and I would sit at the end of the dock with little lines baited with raw bacon, teasing blue crabs from the water and into a waiting net.

Water is a defining aspect of life in Mathews. It is said that in the old days, when Mathews boys went to sea, captains were warned to never let a Mathews sailor on board, or he'd soon have the helm. RC went to sea, as did many in our family. Granddaddy marvels at it--that boys from the edge of nowhere would leave the County and see the world, only to come back.

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