Monday, July 5, 2010

Feelin' Free on the Beach

Some of my best childhood memories are of 4th of Julys spent on the beach. I especially remember the bicentennial, I know, this dates me! I went to the beach early that year, & there was so much more activity than usual. The regulars at my local beach were setting up their sites early with blankets, chairs, food, etc. & there was excitement & a sense of community in the air. I eventually got hungry & went home for lunch, but afterwards as I was heading back to the beach I saw what I thought was Paul Revere wearing a costume complete with three cornered hat riding his horse down Pacific Coast Highway.....

Over the last few years I've become rather grumpy about the crowds & the trampling of nature on the 4th, but this year I felt like going to the beach. I went to my favorite spot on a usually sparsely populated stretch of coast & there was excitement & electricity in the air. Kids, dogs, umbrellas, tents, massive sandcastles, large gatherings......there was a lot going on. I decided to do a long walk through it all, & was reminded of my childhood in Southern California. 

I didn't have my camera with me, which is probably good as a heavy marine layer was settling on the crowd blocking light, but mostly because there was so much going on I'd probably still be there clicking away. Something that has always fascinated me about the beach was out in full force.

I love the way that people open up there. They become free & somewhat feral. They stop worrying about what other people think about them. They have fun. They dig holes, draw in the sand, get dirty. They run & play. They create driftwood structures. They build fires. They spend hours collecting pebbles. They climb rocks, splash in the water, giggle, swim, surf, & fish.

On my walk I found a group carefully stacking sticks of kindling creating a tall square tower, presumably for later lighting, & a beautiful full scale sunken living room with semi-circular sofa & round coffee table with inset ice-bucket all sculpted out of sand oriented towards the firework launching area, of course.  The beach turns regular people into sculptors! I'm not the only one who gets all fired up creatively when I hit the sand!
As much as I was brought up to growl about tourists crowding our sand & water, I think that they sometimes demonstrate this power that the beach has over us the best. There's just something cool about seeing really out of shape pale pink people in swim suits dropping their inhibitions & having fun in the great outdoors. It demonstrates the healing power of nature. And what better way to celebrate our freedom.


  1. Wow what a great story I love it. Unfortunately my experience was the exact opposite. It just reinforced my theory that you go to the beach when tourists aren't around, that is the benefit to being a local. Took the dogs to Pismo around 8am Sunday, parking lot was almost full, ventured out to the beach where lots of people had staked out their spots already. Trash was everywhere, it was disgusting the vibe I felt was definitely not positive. Upon returning to the truck around 9am two police units had someone detained on the curb and it appeared he was about to be arrested. I guess I should know better than to go to Pismo, but it is so close. Most Sundays there are a handful of Surfers and it is great.

  2. Reading this, it felt as though I was right there. I enjoyed the driftwood sculptures too. After huge storms people congregate on our beaches and build fantastic beach sculptures.

  3. I'd like to see pictures of some of those after-storm driftwood sculptures, Robyn! It would be interesting to see if these things take on the same types of forms on different continents, or if they are influenced by local vernacular?

    I've been fascinated with these things for awhile now. There is a small collection of driftwood on a local sand spit that I've watched for years. It is often re-arranged. The top three structures above are from that collection.

  4. Yeah Dan, I have definitely had experiences like that. It makes me sad when groups of humans get into that crowd mentality & decide that their instant gratification is more important than the world around them. How arrogant & blind to do that in the face of the mighty ocean!

    Click on a link to the right to help clean up & educate those poor lost souls ; )