Last night we went to something called an oyster roast at a house up in the woods, with a real bonfire, this time. Someone put a trough over the fire and was pouring oysters into it, where they steamed and hissed and grew fragrant under the wet towel layered above them. When the oysters popped open, they were dumped by the bucketfull across a plywood table with a hole cut in the middle, and everyone just crowded around and dug in, shucking them open, adding horseradish and butter and cocktail sauce, and eating the roasty, smoky shellfish by the dozen. The last time I'd had a chance to eat oysters raw I was pregnant and young enough to be fearful, so I declined. That was eight years ago on a wet and cool night in southern California, with Christmas and sea storms hushing down through the palm trees. This night, by the fire in the mountain air, I had a hankering to slurp an oyster raw but I couldn't get my hands on one. I surrendered. We were talking about truth and how to tell our stories. Then I saw Noah at the table, cracking a live one open. It's for you, he said, prying apart those stony, flaking shells and quickly slicing the muscle away. He handed me this rough and sandy stone full of quivering pearly mass. I adorned it with butter and a squirt of hot sauce--quickly--and then tipped it down, into my mouth, where the outside layers sloughed onto my lips but inside--
--my mouth was an explosion. I shut my eyes. It was cool and slippery, with a sinewy center that resisted my testing teeth. I snaked my tongue into this creature's home and sucked it up living, with its juices clean and oceany on my tongue. Ocean water, oyster, touch of butter and spice. A living thing surrendered up in offering, that was not lost on me.
I communed with the sea.
I took it inside of me, heart, mantle, mouth. All. Never in my life had I tasted something so vital, so immediate, so vivid with the pulse of its home, the Atlantic, the gray waves, churning waters, a cleaner taste than I thought this ruined earth could possibly offer, a taste like sea spray and wind on my face, like purer green seas of different, innocent times, all of it rushing over my taste buds, a taste that goes through you, down to your groin, good god it was holy, it was sensual, it was essence of life. I shut my eyes and turned my face from the fire. I almost cried. They oyster's greatest gift is not its pearl.
Thank you, oyster.