Thursday, November 1, 2012


Superstorm Sandy.

I've been struggling to create a coherent set of thoughts about this monster. The wreckage and sadness on my computer screen speak so loudly to the heart of The Flotsam Diaries. Of overbuilt coastlines, rising tides, plastic lives. Polluted lives.

Yet writing about what Sandy has wrought from the lens of the Diaries has seemed gauche.

Maine was spared her worst. Our condo was spared entirely. We even got the recycling bins stored away safely so not one bottle blew out and besmirched our lawn. Our family is all OK. Even those family members in the direct path of the storm -- inland southern New Jersey -- suffered no worse than power outages or nearby tree limbs down.

Meanwhile New Jersey's coast bore so much. So much loss. Not to mention New York City herself, Long Island, Connecticut. Beyond. And of course before all that, death and destruction in the Caribbean too.

I work on human-scale events. Ripped beach balls, a broken umbrella base, flowerpot scraps. A menu blown from a beachside restaurant. Occasionally household rubbish that blows out of a trash bin and goes down a storm drain.

I have collected & cataloged more than 25,000 pieces of manmade debris. Some of it thoughtlessly left behind, some accidentally lost. Surely, some of it the poignant remains of some greater disaster.

25,000 pieces. When Sandy struck, each single solitary wave that hammered each town pulled that much debris into the ocean. Up and down a coastline stretching hundreds of miles. For hours and hours.

The scale of what one storm has done to people's lives is shocking. The scale of what it did to the ocean is shattering.

But on Tuesday morning, I went to my part of the ocean. I had to see it. It was almost a compulsion. I thought I was going in order to look for erosion and debris. It turns out, I was going in order to see this:
That hole in the heavens opened up as I was wrapping up my check-in. It lasted in its glory for about 30 seconds.

On the way to the cove, I had stopped at a convenience store for some coffee. I even chatted with the owner for about 5 minutes. I have never had the urge to pull over and get coffee on any trip to the beach. If I hadn't this time, I would have been gone from the cove before seeing -- and capturing -- this.

It brought to mind a line from my hero Tolkien:

"In the end, the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

Tomorrow I'll be back at the cove, picking up debris like I always do. While folks 400 miles away do the same thing. On a different scale.

To them, my heart goes out and my hat is off.


  1. Nature's beauty is the reason to continue Litter Picking. Thanks for reminding us that though storms of destruction, and seemingly insurmountable challenges are facing us, the sheer beauty of our beautiful planet refreshes and inspires us.