by Jacquelyn Oster, Class of 2019
On September 22, ten students from Thomas More College of Liberal Arts spent their Saturday collecting wild blue mussels in York Harbor, Maine. The search began along the cliffs of Edward’s Harborside where dense piles of salty seaweed and decomposing marine life line the edges of a beach. We arrived as the tide began to wane and expose sparkling pools which reflected the golden hues of afternoon sunlight: there, clusters of blue mussels use their silky, fibrous “beards” to remain attached to the undersides of rocks for up to fifteen years. We spent almost two hours collecting them at this location before driving to the Nubble Lighthouse where we gathered more from the side of the rock face on which we spent at least half an hour sitting, talking, and looking out at the Atlantic.
Rick Kaiser, Class of 2020, found and caught a dozen crabs, earning the title of “hunter,” while the rest of us were happy to call ourselves “gatherers” of mussels. Rick was also fond of breaking spontaneously into the chorus of “Cockles and Mussels,” an old Irish folk song.
Once our mission was accomplished, we enjoyed fish and chips on the outdoor deck of a local seafood restaurant in York. Warmed by beer and wool blankets, we laughed at each other’s stories and shared observations of the different places we’d been. Some of the Irish students were quick to point out the quaint, wooden structures that contribute to York’s distinctively New England character.
On Sunday evening, we cleaned and scraped from the mussels the barnacles and bits of gravel that cling to their tough shells. On Monday night, we boiled, ate, and served them in a delicious marinara sauce to other students who were studying in the lounge and cafeteria. Abigail Anderson, Class of 2019, remarked that the mussels taste better each year; others were impressed by that taste which can only be described with respect to the ocean.
Maine law allows anyone to gather up to two bushels of mussels without a license, giving everyone, especially the students in Dr. Fahey’s Natural History course, the perfect opportunity to encounter nature up-close. When we get the chance to harvest our food, we may be amazed to find ourselves marveling at mollusks. Our minds are lifted to the contemplation and worship of their Creator, who can inspire us with the smallest and simplest gifts of His bounty.
Please enjoy a few pictures below: