Virginia got a federal grant to renew some of its beaches that have eroded over the years. Funny thing, that ocean, how it hurricanes and nor’easters now and then, changing the landscape at will. Some of my neighbors grumbled that the money could have been better spent, while most of us believe this project is important to protect our homes from worse-than-usual flooding. I had no idea the huge change we were in for.
I took pictures of the process, and it’s not much to see but a lot of earth moving equipment, large pipes, and a “cage” that strained the water and sand-from-elsewhere for large debris before it was tamped down. The Army Corps of Engineers worked 24/7 for weeks to complete the project. They were a nice bunch of people, very forthcoming with information, always said hello or waved as we went by. (Perhaps they knew that not everyone was happy that the excavator was shaking peoples homes in the middle of the night.)
A few days ago I wandered out and the beach had a strange smell, a chemical smell, very faint, one that I could not identify but it sure wasn’t the scent of organic matter drying in the sun as we are used to. This is a rock I found in situ. Not very exciting, but I thought it looked cool as hell in the newborn (and strange-smelling) mud of this beach.
I found this guy and tossed him back out into the ocean.
This morning I got up after sunrise and walked down to the beach. All the pipes and equipment is gone. All that remains are a few excavator tracks, and the youngsters footsteps as they partied late into the night. It looks nothing like the way I found it on my first afternoon as the new kid on the Spit. I’m so glad I took pictures and video to record those gentle dunes carved by time.
The sandbars are gone. Those were happy havens for mothers who wanted to share a beach day with their toddlers: The sand was a perfect toy in just the right depth of water. Seagulls and flounder hunted and left their delicate tracks. Sea skates got stranded there. I wrote precious words on those damp lands at low tide. My feet tracked in stubborn bits of clam shell the size of a pencil point that stuck to my toes. The water made music as it trickled in and converged between the breakwaters, rock “hedges” that were meant to keep out the most fearsome waves. The beach is wet cappuccino now. The weathered ivory sand grains and tiny pebbles destined to become grains are covered in a damp silt now. The neighbors seem to love that it feels smoother to walk on. I hear that it will bleach under the sun and we’ll like it even more. That remains to be seen. The waterline is 100 extra feet away but that’s not what I’m thinking about today.
Capture the details. Memorize the curves, the scent, the grit between your toes because tomorrow it will look like cappuccino mud. Yeah, the birds will eat and the dolphins will come back eventually. The incoming tide will make a new kind of music. The sandbars might return with the next hurricane, who knows? It’s all just proof that few things will be right there where you left it, and to treasure the time that is given.