Many of the happiest moments of my life have been on beaches, wandering along the edges where sea and sand meet in the every changing rhythms of the tide. The convergence of water and land, wet and dry, here and there, now and sometime later feel rich with possibility and promise. Time spent wandering the shore opens us both to finding and to losing.
I’ve always been fascinated by what washes up in the tide. There is a beach along the Carolina coast where I’ve spent days of my life searching for for fossilized shark’s teeth shells of every color, sand dollars, bits of coral, and drift wood. I pick up smoothed ocean pebbles. some with a hole already bored through them. On Pacific beaches I’ve collected agates, and grey stones shot through with flashes of white.
Once I lived along the Rappahannock River, on a sandy beach where shells and driftwood washed up with each tide. Herons, ducks, eagles, and geese were constant companions, many living on an island close to shore. The river’s constant motion was its own gift of peace and contentment.
Beaches may feel safe on occasional holiday visits, but we can never lose sight that these edges also hold the promise of great loss. The water can rise without warning in great violent waves, reaching for homes and roads built close by. As it washes away a child’s sand castle, so it also claims those things, and people, we hold dear. As sea water rises, we see this again and again around the planet.
I learned early that the sea gives, and the sea also takes away. I had worn a golden locket in swimming one day in the Atlantic. I thought the clasp was secure…
A tiny lesson in my childhood, but one always in the back of my mind. One that guided our move inland. Storms on the Atlantic have long arms, reaching hundreds of miles to take what they will. We watch our roads and bridges to the Outer Banks threatened again and again by the sea.
We’ve been spending time on the river beaches of the James this month, collecting photos and examining what has washed up with the tide. We have been searching out the fantastic frozen sculptures growing along the banks during our “Arctic blast.” The ice melted days ago, but the pictures and memories remain.
This week’s Tuesday Snapshots are all photos from the beach, from the edges where land meets sea, dry meets wet, concrete meets possibility, and this moment meets the vast ocean of time.
Even in winter, the beaches are places of great peace and beauty; offering up their many gifts to those who come seeking them.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014
“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”