I don’t remember there ever being a time when I weren’t out upon the beach. Mam used to say the window was open when I was born, and the first thing I saw when they held me up was the sea.
...I was always looking for curies, for as long as I can recall --- verteberries, Devil’s toenails, St. Hilda’s snakes, bezoars, thunderbolts, sea lilies. Two people can look over the same rocks and see different things. One will see a lump of chert, the other a sea urchin.
To me, looking for curies is like looking for a four-leaf clover: It’s not how hard you look, but how something will appear different. My eyes will brush over a patch of clover, and I’ll see 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 3, 3. The four leaves just pop out at me. Same with curies: I’ll wander here and there along the beach, letting my eyes drift over stones without thinking, and out will jump the straight lines of a bellie; or the stripy marks and curve of an ammo; or the grain of bone against the smooth flint. Its pattern pops out when everything else is a jumble.
Everyone hunts differently. Miss Elizabeth Philpot studies the cliff face and the ledges and the loose stones so hard you think her head will burst. She does find things…but she don’t have the eye like me.
Excerpted from Remarkable Creatures © Copyright 2012 by Tracy Chevalier. Reprinted with permission by Plume. All rights reserved.