Thursday, June 24, 2010

Losing Yourself

The Diaries came about from raw emotion. Love for my daughter, sadness and anger at a polluted beach, hope of making a difference -- fear of living a life that didn't make a difference.

My time spent beachcombing is also filled with emotion, and wonder. Not to mention a sensory cornucopia -- the roar of the surf, the texture of the sand, the scent of salt, the sight of a gull diving down right behind me to "recycle" a small, shiny, dead fish that had just washed up seconds before. The air bubbles escaping from underground as a wave recedes.

Plus a thousand other things that don't register as strongly in my memory.

We've all got the things that we're attuned to -- that matter to us, that move us. We are very much a product of our experiences, and our surroundings. For some it's the fishing fleets on the horizon that speak to them. I don't recall whether there have been any fishing boats out in the water -- they didn't register. But I do remember the tiny ripples of fresh sand running in a winding ribbon along the beach where the recent high-tide had just laid them.
They're like snowflakes. Alone, they're helpless & fragile. But given time, they can utterly reshape a landscape. (Gentle summer waves add sand to a beach - burying what's there under fresh layers. Strong, storm-fed winter waves tend to erode the beach, exposing deep layers and buried flotsam.)

All of which brings a problem for a Flotsam Diarist: You have to constantly be on guard against letting your own biases dictate what you look for, what you collect -- even what you see. At Ocean Park, I rarely picked up wooden slats, or pieces of napkin, or little chunks of asphalt and concrete. I don't even remember if I saw any. I wasn't interested. Trouble is, I have to be. This isn't the "Plastics Diaries" -- it's supposed to be a chronicle of all human debris. It's all part of the story. And even if, say, a few pieces of shaped wooden lathe or half a brick don't float my boat, they're no less relevant to the story.

So, doing this work right means being objective. It means losing myself.

And it's funny, as I learn to lose myself when I walk the beach at Bay View, I'm amazed at how much more I see. And that in itself is a valuable lesson.

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