Living Leather

by Olivia Lada

Cold, wet, and utterly uncomfortable.  I wasn’t having the best day sifting through tide pools for slimy invertebrates. Too squeamish to touch any of the recent finds, I was happy to allow my fellow students to overturn the glistening rocks and dig through the stinking silt for small creatures. We had been crouched over on the beach all morning, my entire science class shuffling around observing tidal pools across the bay from Homer, Alaska. In all, it wasn’t a bad way to begin the school year, but if I’d have any say I certainly would have requested better weather. The initial excitement of the day had finally worn off, and I was far past ready to leave for lunch. It was only then, when I had all but given up, that I sighted the brilliant leather star, plastered to the side of a half-submerged rock. I rapidly began to lose my inhibitions about keeping my hands clean and dry.

I bent down and carefully pried the slick, mottled sea star from its perch, and the frigid water of Kachemak Bay shocking the already clammy skin of my hands. Its smooth back was colored with muted reds and oranges; its underside was a creamy off-white. The creature, however, seemed almost dead in my hands. Its tough body was unrelenting in shape; it was cold, stiff, and nearly immobile. The only initial signs of life were its lazily waving tube feet, a dense collection of suckers on the underside of its tough hide. Yet patience slowly prevailed, and as it sat in the palm of my hands it gradually began to shift. Its entire body steadily changing form until it began to fit into the palm of my hand. It was almost as if this particular sea star had started to melt.

Suddenly, it felt as though the star had been specially formed just for the shape of my right hand, like it existed to be held by me in that moment. Something changed and I was struck suddenly by a surprising sense of awe, stronger than any I had had so far during my time in Kachemack Bay. This was more amazing to me than the mountainous landscape or the absurdly blue water. Draped casually over my fingers, hugging my hand as if emotionally attached, I almost felt bad when I lifted the being out of my grasp, its body perfectly recalling the likeness of its former perch. As I set it down on its gray, algae covered stone it sat momentarily out of place, awkwardly balanced on only three arms. Yet as it had done so remarkably before, it once more melted into its surroundings, as though it had been created for the singular purpose of its attachment to that particular rock. I didn’t feel too bad anymore, and I set off in search once more, my energy in the day’s activities suddenly renewed.



About the Author: I am in early honors at APU for my senior year, and I will be graduating with the class of 2015. I haven’t made a final decision as to where I’ll be going for college next year, but I am leaning mainly towards Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Aside from writing and literature, history is my favorite subject to explore, however I am not yet sure what I will be pursuing in college. I enjoy writing in a journal in my free time, as well as playing basketball and spending as much time as possible with my friends.

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