Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I've never lived farther than an hour from the ocean. Among my earliest memories are long, lazy days digging in the sand at Colonial Beach, Virginia. From there, through adolescence in Florida, young adulthood in Massachusetts, and now parenthood in Maine, it's part of who I am. I will probably always live near a shore. Especially now that I've rediscovered it through my daughter's eyes.

Yet for all that, it never seemed, well, "precious." I mean, the ocean just -is-. Right? The crash of surf and tickle of spray and scent of salt and visions of sand and shell and seaweed have always carried one beyond the workaday world. Beyond oneself. That's been the eternal way of things.

Then, on March 8, 2010, I went to the beach. I looked down at my feet. And on that day, something changed inside me.
30 minutes on a quiet Maine beach in winter
Ever since, I've been learning -- and growing -- in directions I'd never before considered.

I know that:
* I can hold 640 million years in a handful of Maine sand.
Half of all the oxygen I breathe was created in the ocean.
* The deepest place in the world is 36,000 feet below the waves.
* That place holds life.
* Treasures on the shore come in all shapes and sizes.
* The ocean now teems with things never seen in its 3.8 billion yrs.
* The garbage patch isn't as big as Texas. It's as big as the ocean.
* Despite "recycling," industry adds 50M tons of new plastic each yr.
This number is growing.
* My world runs on stuff used 10 minutes & persistent 10 lifetimes.
* The shore is no longer an escape from the workaday world.
* The workaday world poisons the globe's most remote paradise.
* It poisons my own beach.

And, ultimately, I know that this knowledge has changed me.

Hence the crossroads. The Flotsam Diaries started as a spark of indignance. One man angry about one beach on behalf of his one young daughter. It's grown into an understanding of scope & scale beyond my imagining. Of the raging power & beauty of nature. Of its fragility. Of its importance. It's taken dark turns that have made me re-evaluate things I've been taught to believe for years.

And I'm forever grateful for it.

Last March, I took the red pill. And there's no going back. Now I have to decide what the Flotsam Diaries will mean, going forward. I believe we're here to make a difference. And, somehow, I know this is a place where I can make a difference.

What do you want your child to see when you visit
the beach one sunny morning on the edge of Spring?


  1. Harry -
    We feel so similarly about the ocean. And we have had very parallel experiences writing our blogs. Something changed inside of me one day, on one beach and I am "forever grateful" for it too. If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to write a reflective post like this as I approach Day 200. With a nod and all credit to you for the inspiration of course! I just love reading The Flotsam Diaries.

    thank you, thank you -

  2. Hi Harry,
    I'd like to use an excerpt from your above blog post and use at my blog Postcards From The Coast....linking back to you.
    Your post was really poignant - I feel it here in Scotland too :) Best wishes,

  3. Sara, I wouldn't mind at all! To have inspired someone whose posts inspire me? Tres cool! (And you must be getting excited as the gyre cruise gets close. Can't wait to read the reports.)

    Vicky, it's great to meet you and to see your blog. You're always most welcome to use things you like from here - I'm honored! The sunset over Skye amazes me. My wife and I got a view of Skye years ago from the train station at Kyle of Lochalsh. I can't wait to get my feet in Scotland again.

  4. We agree Harry. We all can make a difference. One piece of trash at a time.

    Keep up the great work and we hope to see you on the Maine coast this summer during our Trash Tour or research period.

  5. I'd love to catch up with you. I love what Rozalia is doing. I mean, it's one thing to show what washes up; but you guys can show with your cameras everything that's on the seabed itself. Sobering stuff.