12 September 2006

How I Spent my 9-11

I went to the beach.

I was at my mom's shore place. I made sure the flag got hung (and made sure it was down and stowed properly before I headed home today.

I got up about 9, having fallen asleep by 12:30 or 1:00 instead of the 4 or 5 AM is my usual of late at home. I did the dog thing, covered the couch (yes, the bitch has claimed it already...so glad I thought of covering it!), packed my beach bag and headed out. I stopped at my regular diner along the way for breakfast. I found out my usual waitress, Regina's, husband died in November. This is the first I've gotten to the diner this year. I'll have to get down there again to see Regina and deliver my condolences in person.

The breeze was a bit heavy but I don't let that deter me. Real beach people...the ones who are able to suck in that energy that is the sea and recharge their batteries...are not going to be put off by a little wind. Then I saw the Atlantic. I've never seen the sea so roiled outside of a very heavy hurricane or Nor'easter. I didn't know tha Hurricane Florence was wreaking havoc while cruising past the coast of Bermuda. Little damage was done, thankfully.

The ocean was a dark grey, with whitecaps visible hundreds of yards out. The waves had completely overwhelmed the rock jetty I usually park my chair and umbrella in front of. There were only a few feet of dry beach remaining. I assumed (rightly) it must be high tide.

The greyish-brown, foamy waves crashed into the shore and jetty with depth and power. The seafoam was rampant, with a chunk often breaking free after being deposited by a particularly fierce wave and scampering into oblivion as it abraded itself against the wet then dry sand. Sometimes groups of them would break free in massive seafoam suicide pacts, leaving trails in their wake like fluffy sea snails gone wild.

The waves came in at a 35 or 40% angle; usually they're pretty head on. The wind was probably at a steady 20-25 mph with gusts easily up to 30 or 40 mph. The wind and the waves came in from the north-northeast.

At first, I faced the sea. After only a few minutes, I knew I had to put my back to the north to alleviate the blown sand, the chill and the flapping of my towel in my face. I was much happier with the wind to my back. The umbrella was useless and never even tried. I was quite happy until a much larger than expected wave (obviously!) snuck up behind me, soaking the seat and half the towel, carried away my umbrella and water bottle (both retrieved) and christened my new beach bag. Chillll!

When the coast was clear as it was going to get, I broke city law and slipped my wet swimsuit (Yeah, right...I had dreams of swimming!) down (underneath my beach coverup sundress, of course) and was soon decked out in my (dry) shorts, lightweight, long-sleeved (dry) shirt and my favorite (though damp) Land's End Big Shirt. (God, I wish they still made that shirt!) I decided a trip down the beach was a good idea so I walked south, toward an inlet that is a NJ state park.

I looked at the sand as I walked, hoping the tumultuous sea might have washed up an unexpected or unusual specimen. What I met with, mostly, was tragic reminders of our presence on the beach, the detritus of human interaction with the sea. Bottle caps, crushed beer cans, empty bait containers, a spent firework rocket (not a good idea next to protected dunes, Dude!). I gathered up what I could as I walked along, looking for treasures I could enjoy.

I carried a plastic lid and container (not matching) and stuck bottle caps, plastic rings, spent lighters and fishing line inside the container. I had a fistful of spoons and sporks, the red-headed stepchildren. I could only manage one crushed can and one squashed bottle without involving my other hand.

And I wanted that free. I was on a search for treasure. I found small clam shells with holes naturally eroded at the top, pre-drilled for hanging. I found a large number of these in a fairly short period. I probably didn't walk more than a mile or two. I found bits of abalone, mussel and oyster shells and a lovely, marbled snail or gaudy nautilus shell. I found, to my delight bits of small conch or whelk shells, something I hadn't seen since my childhood. I came across the requisite partial horshoe crab carcass.

On my walk back, now walking fully into a now-constant 30-40 mph wind, my shirts (now fully dry) plastered against my torso, the sandpipers returned. They skirted the edge of the water as is their wont, rushing out to feast on any treats left by the tide, rushing back in as if afraid of getting their feathers wet. I love my little sandpipers and plovers. I was so glad to see them back.

I depositied my trash in the first appropriate containers that presented themselves. I had a pocketful of treasures of my own...eight clam shells with natural holes, a couple of scallop shells, an oyster and a lovely muscle. A tiny bit of abalone. I knew what I'd do with them by my walk back to retrieve my chair, bag and things. I will find some tough, appropriate material to use and would string them together in a tiny 9-11 wind chime. They'll probably break easily but it doesn't matter. The nautilus/snail shell has no hole. I hope I don't break it while drilling with my tiniest bit. I will hang it on my windchime tree.

Then, when the wind blows as it did yesterday, the shells will trinkle and remind me always that there can be beauty any day of the year, even the most sad. On the darkest day, there are still beauties to be found and appreciated.

I thought of all who suffered through or because of the events of five years ago every time I bent over to pick up a piece of trash or a piece of nature's beauty. I wished them well and godspeed.

tags: 9-11 / life


At September 13, 2006 8:51 AM, Blogger Jean said...

What I met with, mostly, was tragic reminders of our presence on the beach, the detritus of human interaction with the sea

This always makes me sad in about three different ways.

I thought of all who suffered through or because of the events of five years ago every time I bent over to pick up a piece of trash or a piece of nature's beauty. I wished them well and godspeed.

You know, I could not think of anything worthy to say about 9/11, but this is probably pretty close to my own sentiments.

At September 13, 2006 4:22 PM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks, Jean...I'm glad you appreciated it.

At September 13, 2006 9:58 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

That was absolutely beautifully written.

At September 14, 2006 6:12 AM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Wow, thanks, Kristin! I'm a sap, I admit it.

Thanks for stopping by!


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