Friday, May 7, 2010

Return trip

You know what it's like. You get an idea, it seems great. You noodle it in the evenings while some lousy TV show is on in the background. You make plans, you set goals, you feel energized. Then a day goes by, and another. And the passion fades, and for a while you feel guilty. "I really should stick with that, tonight I'm going to sit down and make more plans." A few more days of intra-cranial negotiations go by. Eventually it's just some silly random idea you had once, and you've moved on to the next shiny thing.

This has been my world. I was going to learn Latin. I started in 1997. To date I still can't effectively read a sentence in high Latin. I was going to get a Master's in history or archaeology. I've been "seriously checking out" graduate programs since about 1995.

That's why it struck me so oddly that, a week or so after my first roundup of debris, I felt the urge growing to go back and collect more. Then I did something completely out of character. I got up and did it.

It had only been days. But the beach had changed. Dramatically.

Mid-March had brought more brutal storms. The raging ocean had hurled a foot of sand 100 feet up the shore, burying the benches by the edge of the dunes. Hundreds of live clams had also been dislodged and were cast upon the beach, to rot or become gull food. Amongst them and the kelp row, more debris of the human variety.

My daughter didn't mind. She thoroughly enjoyed her piece of picket fencing.

For me, it was another heavy garbage bag after another all-too-brief amble. A hat. A glove. A sock. Dozens more of those bright rubber bands. Trawler rope. Everywhere, trawler rope. A broken water gun. Another shotgun shell. A filter (oil or air, not sure). Bottles, aluminum cans, coffee lids, a tattered Halls mint pack.

Same two block area, same drop in the bucket. So many questions. How did they get here? Was it the storms and the wind - or was this happening all the time? What washed up from the ocean? What blew in from a neighbor's trash can? What had been lost on the beach one warm day last summer? And the biggie: is it just getting worse & worse, or can a guy and a trash bag do something about it?

If I'd had doubts before, I didn't now. Tolkien, in his backstory to The Lord of the Rings -- the mythology behind the tale -- spoke of "the flame imperishable." Well, "imperishable" is a strong term, but that day on the beach helped me understand the imagery of the kindled flame.

I was in for the long haul. And I had a lot of learning to do.

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