CARRIE Sz KEANE WRITES MEMOIR…

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…like you have never read before. It loops; it scrolls; it paints; it dances. Carrie’s prose is simply delicious.

Summer is drawing to a close, but it’s not too late to wander the beach with Carrie…

Foraging Through the Offing
by CARRIE Sz KEANE

IT DAWNED ON ME while collecting sea water in large five-gallon buckets, that the process of evaporation, of turning this saline liquid into salt, is essentially a vanishing, a process of something tangible, in this case water, simply ceasing to exist, of becoming something else. Becoming something solid.

I walked along the coast, barefoot, kicking the sandy mud, hearing the slopping of the sea ooze, the sea scum, the salt hay, the sea bubbles, the sea hiss, the cranking of the waves, the roaring, unfurling, slap of the water. I could smell the salinity, the sun-cooked seaweed, the decay of horseshoe crabs, belly up, no longer kicking their little legs or whipping their sharp tails. I saw shiny rainbow effervescence in the sea foam. I stepped on tiny pearly polished pebbles on their way to becoming sand.

Ten gallons of ocean water weighs about sixteen pounds. 

I bent down and dipped the buckets into the ocean. In each hand I carried one full bucket of saltwater, the metal handle cutting into my palms. My biceps burned. I imagined that I looked like Themis, the lady goddess of justice, like the constellation Libra, balancing scales.

I had been in an insular mood all winter. Something had happened that made me shut down, embittered me, that made it hard to distinguish reality from fiction. I had my nose in novels, relating more to the made-up players in my life than the real ones. I considered some of them my friends. But now, as the weather warmed and the days got longer, my mood also evaporated, became something else, more solid, and sunny again. I regained my wit, the salt of conversation. I had become seasoned. Now, it was Summer, sugar and spice and everything nice. A new dawn. Morning is a birth. My body felt the sun rise, but my brain as always, like the amniotic tides of the ocean, was storming. Brain storming.

Sea salt goes for about ten dollars an ounce.

Purified saltwater is now being sold in high-end food markets in Holland under the name, “zeesap” or sea-juice.

Saline has the formula NaCl. Sodium chloride. Frankly speaking, there is no chemical formula for sea water. This is because it contains more than seventy elements dissolved within. It has water, sodium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and sulfates, and it differs depending on the sea. There’s a dumb chemistry joke that the compound for sea water is “CH2O.”

I remembered seeing a quotation, “Talent is cheaper than table salt.” The word “salary” was derived from the word “salt.” Historically, salt was highly valued and its production was legally restricted, so it was once used as a method of trade and currency. Slaves were traded for salt. Inferior slaves were said to be not worth their salt. What I was doing, collecting saltwater in buckets to make salt was once illegal.

Gandhi’s philosophy “satyagraha,” revealed truth and confronted injustice through nonviolence, and rather than use the weight of force, he used the weight of salt. When the Indian National Congress redoubled its efforts for independence in 1930, Gandhi staged an ambitious satyagraha campaign, framing his protest around salt. As with other commodities, Britain had kept India’s salt trade under its thumb, forbidding natives from manufacturing or selling the mineral and forcing them to buy it at high cost from British merchants. Since potassium was a nutritional necessity, Gandhi saw the salt laws as evil. Without salt, we die.

His colleague compared the protest to striking a “fly” with a “sledgehammer,” yet for Gandhi, the salt monopoly was an example of how the Raj unfairly imposed Britain’s will on the most basic aspects of Indian life. Its effects cut across religious and class differences, harming Hindus and Muslims, rich and poor. Gandhi penned a letter to the British viceroy requesting the repeal of the salt tax. If refused, he promised to launch a satyagraha act.

Thus ignored, at dawn on March 12, 1930, Gandhi, wearing a shawl and sandals and holding a wooden walking stick, set off on foot from his ashram with several-dozen companions and began an overland trek to the Arabian Sea town of Dandi. That’s right. Gandhi went to Dandhi. There, he defied the salt tax by illegally harvesting the mineral from the beachside. Now, if that ain’t a dandy of a story, I don’t know what is. It’s like he stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.

I am wet from retrieving the water. In order to avoid collecting too much sand, I walked about three feet out into the sea to dip my buckets. About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water- covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water. Water exists in the air as vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and in aquifers, and even in me and you and my dogs. 

Life starts as salt of the earth and so often ends as salt in the wound. How can you put a tax on that? Once cooked down, the water I’m collecting will yield a little under nine ounces of pure, fresh, flaky sea salt. But, to transport this water is so ponderous. The way life is. So ponderous. Boiled down. 

Beach combing is mind combing.

In idyl time I like to forage. The word idyl, so close to ideal. I forage thrift stores for old vases, oil lamps, funny hats. I forage in the woods for wild onions, for violets to make jam, for herbs, for mushrooms most of all. I forage the city streets for stories, for secrets in the dark corners, between the cracks in the concrete. I forage early in the morning, in the fog between night and day, to find moths. I forage to forget. It is the silence that I’m mining for. It is the time alone, in the avoidance of humans, in the search for anything, that I find myself.

And there is so much more to find, so much more to know. To read the rest of “Foraging Through the Offing” get your copy of Aurora today. BUY AURORA

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