Mermaid’s Purse

I’d never seen one before but I knew what it was. I spotted this Mermaid’s Purse on the beach at Hoylake on the Wirral, that funny chunk of land between Liverpool and North Wales. It’s flanked on one side by the River Dee, and on the other by the River Mersey. At the far end, it faces the open sea, which had washed up this marine treasure.

Known as a Mermaid’s Purses, these are the egg cases of rays and sharks.They contain the embryonic raylet or sharklet (my name for them) and they can vary in size, shape and colour, and some contain more than one embryo.

This one is 10 centimetres long, and it’s the egg case of a Blonde Ray.

The first photo shows the case as I found it, crusty with dried sand. The second shows it after I’d hydrated it by soaking it in water for a couple of hours, which restored it’s sheen and plumped it up a bit. Of course, it was empty, the young ray having hatched out long ago, and there’s an opening along the top which was the escape hatch.

I don’t know if there’s any deep significance in finding a treasure like this, but it feels like a gift, finding this fascinating object on the beach, especially as I wasn’t beachcombing or looking for anything in particular at the time. And especially as I was able to ID it right away, probably plugging directly into some long-buried memory of having heard about these in my childhood.

It’s always ourselves we find in the sea

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Last week I went away to the coast forĀ  a couple of nights and returned recharged and refreshed after weeks of lockdown. There were small, simple pleasures, like walking on beaches and seeing seabirds. I wonder, do we appreciate what we already have? Why do we want more when we already have more than enough, if only we take time to enjoy it.

This poem came to mind as I was looking through the photos I took:

 

maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star

whose rays five languid fingers were:

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as the world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e.e.cummings