Happy Clamsgiving


This is where we stopped, as Lino had already determined, passing here as we often do, that this terrain was going to be good.

While the rest of you were lolling amid the wreckage of flightless birds and tangled NFL teams last Thursday, we went for the mollusks.  I suppose we could have gone fishing, but considering that the tide was going to be unusually low at a convenient time of day, plus the fact that a few calm, cool, golden days of St. Martin’s Summer had briefly wandered back to the lagoon, probably by mistake, it seemed to fly in the face of Providence not to take a boat and go clamming.

I refer to “we,” in the sense that an anesthetist might refer to “our” brain operation. Lino does the hunting and gathering of the submerged morsels, and I help him by rowing there and back and keeping quiet.  I have dug clams in my life, so I know it’s possible.  I also know that I do not have the (A) knack  (B) patience  (C) desire  (D) interest in this endeavor.  Perhaps if I were to actually find a clam occasionally, all of the above would increase, even if only a little.

But no.

He jams his finger into the sediment where there are NO SIGNS of bivalve habitation, and comes up with one after another.  I jam my finger into the sediment where there are NUMEROUS signs, and come up with nothing or — worse — a little castanet full of mud where the clam used to be.  This is the clam’s way of wreaking revenge, even though he wasn’t eaten by us but by some passing marine creature such as a sea snail. But if you can be fooled by the shut clamshell, you will happily claim it and throw it into the skillet with the others, where it will duly open up and distribute sandy mud all over its companions.  Not a lot of sand.  Just enough.  So not wishing to risk being the agent of this unpleasant eventuality, I tend to sit in the boat and watch and breathe and listen.  And take pictures, or read.  Sometimes I even think, if there’s any time left over.

And he immediately gets to work. Summer clamming requires walking around in the water barefoot, but by November you need to switch to Plan B.

Rowing out in the lagoon when the weather is chilly (or cold, or very cold), but calm and sunny, is almost the best thing ever.  The traffic has been slashed to the bone, the light is delicate yet rich, with shifting nuances that overlap in alluring combinations that set themselves on fire in celestial sunsets.

Watching the tide drop is also a beautiful and mysterious thing.  Of course you can’t see it drop any more than you can see a leaf changing color, but you can notice it in phases and it’s a pleasant reminder of things that are bigger and even more important than you — I mean me.

Reverence for truth compels me to add, though, that the soundtrack isn’t nearly as seductive as the scene itself.  I said there was less traffic — I didn’t say there was no traffic, because since the advent of the motor (or at least since the advent of me), I can tell you that there is no day or night, no season or location, in which you will find silence in the lagoon.  There is always — I need to repeat that — always the sound of a motor coming from somewhere.

Whenever a boat goes by out in the channel, it thoughtfully leaves all sorts of waves behind.

Trying to imagine the lagoon without the sound of motors — and believe me, I do try to imagine it, on a regular basis — is like trying to imagine the Garden of Eden, or being Angelina Jolie, or even inventing some stupid little app that makes you five million dollars in six months.  That is, your brain can’t do it. Because no matter how divine may be the velvety midnight sky, how nacreous the dawn, how resplendent the vault of heaven seared by the flaming rays of sunset, there will always be motor noise.  Small, but steady and grinding, like a dentist’s drill, or deep and ponderous, or silly and busy and self-important.  It’s the aural equivalent of the vandalage inflicted by The Society for Putting Broken Bedsteads into Ponds identified by Flanders and Swann.  Only not so funny.

Back to clams.  Lino was happy, I was happy, the clams — well, I try not to think about their mood. They were put in the lagoon to be consumed, not to write bi-lingual dictionaries or form a sacred harp choir.  Apologies to any Catholic vegetarian readers, but I have to say that clams make a beautiful death.  And broth.

The falling tide begins to reveal the world beneath. The lagoon, as one sees, is essentially a flooded alluvial plain.

Two members of the Remiera Casteo club out for a spin, now heading home.

Not much later, another pair from the same club heads out for some more serious training on a gondolino.

As winter draws near, the lagoon begins more and more to resemble a sort of Zen garden. At least in parts.


The sun and water are both noticeably going down, but this does not deter our intrepid clammer.

Your diehard clammer wants "just one more" even more fervently than six paparazzi want photos.

And the fruit of all his labor. I'm certainly thankful for this little harvest.






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Categories : Nature


  1. Mary Ann DeVlieg

    one of the loveliest of your always lovely posts.

  2. John Garrett says:

    Thanks so much Erla (and Lino).
    Venice is an amazing city and the lagoon wouldn’t be the way it is without Venetians but for me a so-so day on the lagoon beats a good day in the city every time.
    Alla prossima volta, JohnGarrett

  3. Jon says:

    Thanks Erla for the great post and photographs.
    Lino certainly seems to have a great eye and hand for clamming.

    • Erla says:

      Lino is an Olympic-level clammer. He’s happy even if he (inexplicably) doesn’t get much. My handicap is that I go out there in get-it-done mode. Clams don’t respond to that. Or, if we want to go Zen on it, I should say they don’t respond, which is also a response.

  4. Carey Oh Blanks
    Twitter: ohsocosie

    I love clams. Gonna have to have some tonight.