For years now I have yearned to find a sea potato, those fragile, heart-shaped, star-marked members of the sea urchin family. Given the amount of time in my life I have spent walking beaches with a bowed head it has quite aggravated me that these delicate sculptures of nature have eluded, an aggravation that is exacerbated by the fact that no-one else seems to have any problem finding them. One friend has them scattered about his car and claims they are ‘everywhere’. Another friend said he would find one for me, walked a few paces and picked one up and presented me with it. I promptly broke it. Nature, it seemed, had deemed me too clumsy and uncouth to be allowed communion with these fey tubers of the sea. I finally gave up. You can imagine my joy when, on a trip this year to Connemara, as I walked on beautiful Glassilaun, I spied on the grainy white sand a single, perfect sea potato framed artfully by thong weed (that stuff with which mermaids make their knickers) as if waiting for me. I had finally been accepted into the Sea Potato Club.

I often claim not to indulge in magical thinking but it is a claim that is false and I immediately saw in the sea potato a change in my fortunes. The clouds had parted, good things would surely come. I had let go and all that I wanted had come to me. I paced the rest of the beach with an outstretched hand that gently cupped my talisman of good fortune like a coronation herald carrying a crown on a cushion. I could rest easy now, content that I had found what I was looking for. My search was over…

Within five minutes I was wondering if I could find more. The thought of more took hold of me. I would find one more and give it to my friend’s little girl, Feile. Bolstered by my altruism I veered back to the magic spot to see what I could find. I found that my sea potato had been the last of of a long scatter of sea potatoes jumbled on the shore line, some in pristine condition, some cracked or broken, in shades of ochre, grey and white. There were even some hairy ones. I had managed to walk past all of them without seeing them and probably even crushed one or two under my clodding, ignorant feet. I did not deserve such beautiful things and I felt momentarily abashed. Then I greedily began to gather as many as I could.

One for me, one for Feile, one for my niece Charlie, one in case one got broken…GLASSILAUN SMThe difficulty of carrying a couple of kilos of fragile objects back to my car soon became obvious and I came to my senses kneeling on the white sand, surrounded by blue and green heaving mountains above the bright shore lapped by azure waters feeling as embarrassed as a Dutch burgher in 1638. I eventually took five sea potatoes. As I walked back up the beach my magical thinking head moved up a gear. Life is like my sea potato search, it thought. You look endlessly for the things you want not realising that they are in front of you all the time, that you are in fact trampling all over them. Try as I might though I couldn’t remember stomping on any nice young men or piles of money. My sour thinking head broke in to suggest that everything is random and the only patterns-besides my flibberty gibbet thinking patterns-are the ones on the tiny, alien skull-like sea potatoes, each evenly, delicately perforated with the outline of an outstretched star, arms open to the heavens. Maybe that’s enough.bMy friend and her daughter did not collapse with joy when I presented them with my treasure. In fact they seemed sort of underwhelmed and though I may have imagined it I thought I heard a mutter…

“Those bloody things. They’re everywhere…”


18 responses to “SEA POTATOMANIA

  1. I collect shells, rocks and sea ephemera from every beach I visit. My apartment is littered with piles of them in dishes and bowls reminding me of the places I’ve been and loved. Sand dollars were a particular favorite as a child but I love urchins now.
    Save me a potato; I promise to jump up and down!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow, I had not heard of these, and am sure I’ve never seen one on my walks up and down the coast at South Shields, I want one too now! I have shells and a starfish and I am a serial sea glass collector so it would fit right in here! Your paintings are lovely, makes me want to visit there.


  3. Like thefieryredhead, I too have beach memorabilia all over the place. Some from the beaches of the Arabian Sea given me by an uncle 60 years ago and kept in tissue paper in a box until recently, many more collected myself from various parts of the world. Some of my favourites are the urchins, but I’ve never consciously seen a sea potato, so I will be on the lookout from now on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Urchins are the best…I have tons of shells and things too. Its amazing what the sea makes and the throws up. And I am glad I’m not the only one who wasn’t seeing them Chris 🙂


  4. From your painting, it reminds me of a vagina, and from that, of Georgia O’Keefe’s bones and antlers.The original goddesses had markings on them that are very similar to the marks on these shells.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I see what you mean. I love O’Keeffes work and the bones and the desert landscapes are definitely echoed by the bleached skull like urchin and the sand…and I didn’t know that about the goddesses…Thanks Rachael.


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