Finding zen in the midst of catching crab

So I got the job — editor of The Daily World covering all of Grays Harbor County, along with Raymond and South Bend and the northernmost sliver of land in Pacific County.

That was back in September, when the evenings remained bright and the late summer was warmer than usual.

One of my rules for anyone I hire in the newsroom is they have to live within the distribution boundaries of the newspaper. I follow the rule. I had lots of choices. I could find a historic home in Montesano or Aberdeen. I could live somewhere near a farm in Elma. How about an affordable place in Hoquiam?

Then there was the coast. I first stayed with relatives in Ocean Shores for the second half of September. But Tokeland was calling. Years ago I took a road trip from my home in Mossyrock, destination unknown. But I was headed for the coast.

I ended up staying a couple nights at the Tokeland Hotel, a magical place. So I decided I would live in the area, and was lucky enough to find an affordable spot on the Pacific Ocean right on the water in Tokeland, but behind the shoals and rip-rap rock.

It would be romantic, I muttered to myself. I would spend at least the winter on the coast, with wind and rain and surf as my companions. I would work on a novel, write some poetry, read stimulating books.

On my time off I would drive on the beach and walk barefoot through the waves, perhaps have a fire on the beach and fly a kite. Maybe learn how to catch crab.

Some of those goals I have attained, but I don’t know about the romance. On a regular basis, my abode shivers in the high wind, sometimes by gale forces. The rain often drives hard in a slanted torrent, making my short walk from my truck to my front door a sloppy, miserable few moments.

The wind and rain just continues, as does the early darkness each evening. With all the precipitation, a campfire just doesn’t come true all that often.

But there is one aspect I have perfected. It only took me about two months and $150 invested in two crab pots.

When I started out crabbing, my nephew loaned me his ring-toss crab catcher. I used the typical chicken, night after night, quaking with cold on the Tokeland jetty. I caught a couple, all too small.

I upped my game to crab pots. I put them together, loaded them with the cheapest chicken I could find, and threw them over the rail into the saltwater. I caught a couple, again, all undersized.

After a couple weeks I realized those crafty crab could crawl out the small openings along the side of the pots. I purchased some zip ties and secured the metal soon-to-be crab morgue. I used salmon heads instead of chicken.

The result — I now catch more crab than I want to eat. On Tuesday alone this week I landed five large Dungeness treats. I could only eat three the past few days, so I brought in two of the largest for the husband of a co-worker I’m told loves the tasty, fresh Dungee.

And I have decided to be a crabber for the rest of my numbered days. I firmly believe that spending just a little time, perhaps even just 20 minutes a day in the great outdoors is good for the body, mind and soul. Crabbing makes it happen.

The Japanese practice forest bathing. They call it “shinrin-yoku.” “Shinrin” means “forest.” “Yoku” means “bath” — you just take it all in.

I have melded “shinrin-yoku” with crabbing. Once the pots are in the water, I take time to breathe in the salty, wet air, the views of the fishing boats and the healing waters of Willapa Bay. I call it Dungee-zening.

I guess that is kind of romantic. I think I’ll write a haiku about it.

Pots full of Dungees

Wind and rain and salmon heads

Time for fresh dinner

Michael Wagar is editor of The Daily World. He can be reached at michael.wagar@thedailyworld and 360-269-7979.