Friday, August 30, 2019

From My Nature Journal: Shifting Sands

The beach, as usual, is gorgeous, but very, very different this year from last: as far north and south as my eye can see it looks like three feet of depth of sand has washed out compared to my last time here.  That’s a lot of sand. And above the tide line there is a steep ledge about four feet high that rises to the vegetation level, grasses and sedges beginning there almost immediately. The high tide right now is washing up against the ledge, and above that, the walking zone varies in width from twenty feet at most to as narrow as three.

I know it is likely just an unusual surge in recent days. It IS hurricane country, after all. But it still leaves the impression of almost no beach. How different from a year ago, when the beach was spacious and wide, a huge playlot for the kids. 100 feet wide? 150? Today that play space is gone. This afternoon the frisbee tossers and football throwers will be tripping over the sunbathers, if they’re here at all.

Beach gone? Where does it go? Does the sand just wash out and fill in the depressions on the continental shelf? Does it work its way out further? What exactly pulls it all out? And what force, or combination of forces, ultimately restores it?

I am this beach, different this year
than last, changed this day from
yesterday, altered, yet the same.

Beaches are constantly changing, as are, to a less noticeable degree, the dunes that back them. It may be wildly different or subtle, but it is almost always evident. Even on a beach that seems from one day to the next to be level and elevationally unchanged, today I find a
carpet of shells. And tomorrow? Nothing but sand as blank as a huge sheet of sandpaper. One day the beach seems absolutely littered with those small, one-lobed scallop shells the reddish-purple of Michigan sunsets: the next there’s not one to be found, though there are numerous of another kind I did not see yesterday. 

I am this beach, different this year than last, changed this day from yesterday, altered, yet the same.

Blow your quickening winds over me, Lord. Force the clean currents of your Spirit against my obstinate shores. Shape me in every way your will intends, and sculpt me constantly into such beauty that would bring you as much delight as this beach does me.

~~ RGM, from an entry years ago in my old nature journal,
after a beach hike at Hobe Sound NWR, Florida