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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Day at the Beach: January 16th

When nice weather presents itself in January, you just have to seize the opportunity! Most January days around here mean rain and cold (and occasional snow) so we prize dry sunny days. Of course, there's no telling whether such days are going to fall on a day where the tide is decent... but sometimes you get lucky.

We are slowly moving towards a time of the year when there are a few short periods with lower tides during daylight hours. This is also the time of the year when we have "King tides," which are extremely high... and when such tides are accompanied by strong onshore winds, we often see some pretty severe coastal erosion... and seaside parking lots getting swamped by waves.

The ocean is very powerful, and in this part of the world, we do get a lot of loose floating logs. And when I say "logs," that can often mean a tree trunk some three feet in diameter and 50 feet long. Even though these can weigh in at tens of thousands of pounds, it's amazing how even something as relatively minor as 5-foot waves can toss them around and deposit them 50 foot inland, in the middle of a parking lot... like they were no more than match sticks. I have seen our parking lot after a good storm and wondered at how 200lb boulders had gotten moved as far as they had.

The beach can be fairly treacherous, at this time of the year. When you have to traverse fallen trees and boulders from the size of soccer balls to the size of your average kitchen stove (see photo, above), going is slow... most people are lucky to make about one mile in an hour; and when you have several miles to go, it quickly becomes a tedious and potentially ankle-twisting adventure. When the rocks are wet-- or covered with seaweed-- you have to be especially cautious. As many times as I have been across such rocky ground, I consider myself fortunate to have "escaped" with no more than a few wet feet.

I often have to simply resign myself to going slowly... but that's OK, as it gives me plenty of time to enjoy my surroundings and say hello to the other creatures with whom I share space, such as this otter who quickly scurried across my path, jumped into the water, and then regarded me cautiously as it swam by. It dove a couple of times, then disappeared.

I beach comb in a place where there is pretty much "nothing to be found" for at least a couple of miles. And I never know what I am going to find. I could spend a couple of hours "getting there," only to discover a beach covered in six-inch boulders... or covered with a 6-inch layer of seaweed, making the glass impossible to spot. There's no way to "check in advance," so I just have to make a commitment and go... and whatever will be, will be.

It was about 45 minutes before I found even the first sign of sea glass. I don't normally pick up brown sea glass, but this was an impressively large and smooth piece, so I decided to keep it.

Perhaps a bit like baseball players, I'm a bit superstitious. I have this nagging belief that it's bad luck not to pick up the first piece of glass I see...

As the years have gone by, I have gotten more and more particular about what I pick up, and what I leave behind.

Other than particularly interesting-- or outstanding size/quality-- pieces, I almost never pick up clear or brown glass anymore. That said, I usually do come home with a fair amount of clear, simply because a lot of interesting "objects" were made with clear glass-- bottles and bottle stoppers, handles and feet from candy dishes, door knobs and drawer pulls-- and many of them are worthy of collecting.

However, I am most particular about the quality of the glass-- anything with fresh chips, breaks or other damage goes back into the ocean... and hopefully I will find it again, many years from now, when it has fully "cooked." I see no point in saving "broken" glass.

It always disappoints me when I see out-of-town visitors around here, who insist on picking up absolutely everything they can get their hands on. Because our surf can be rough-- and there are lots of larger rocks-- the vast majority of sea glass on our beaches has some form of damage. I probably pick up no more than 1-in-8 of the pieces of glass I see... the rest I leave behind for some day when they will be "ready." To me that's not only good "beach combing etiquette," it's common sense.

This turned out to be one of my best winter beach combing days in a very long time. I found three quite nice pieces of red glass, which was definitely cause for celebration. I also found a few other pieces in "better" colors: Yellow, pink, turquoise and some rarer shades of green.

Part way through the afternoon, it occurred to me that the nice glass on the beach was probably more a result of the recent very high tides, than the current lows... some of the "old" pebbles had finally been beaten around by the waves, revealing things that probably had been "hiding" since last January's "king tides."

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is that there are not many people on the beach-- and this day was no exception; I saw maybe five other people, the entire afternoon.

And when there are few people, there tends to be more wildlife. Much of the afternoon, I was watched over by a couple of eagles, looking at the world from the trees on the high bluffs behind me. Although the eagles around here are pretty used to humans, many of them stay hidden when the beach is crowded.

Besides, beach combing is really a "meditation" for me, so I prefer solitude.

Of course, not everything I pick up is sea glass. Along the way, there are always interesting rocks, sea shells and other objects of interest.

One of my very best finds of the day was actually not even sea glass but the large (at least for this part of the world) golden agate I found, late in the day-- shown in the picture below. I would not have spotted it, had it not been a sunny day and late in the day when the sun is very low... but it lit up like a bright orange-yellow golf ball in the late afternoon sun. I am not sure what to "do" with the agates I find, but they are very pretty, and remind me of the pieces of amber we'd sometimes find on the beaches in Denmark, when I was a kid. And much like some of those pieces of amber, this golf ball sized agate had a dark "moss like" inclusion.

By the end of the day, I had found quite "a lot" of sea glass, but it was noteworthy-- once again-- how the "rare colors" are getting ever rarer with each year that passes. Many of them start as fairly small pieces of glass, so it only makes sense that the small pieces will be the first to be completely worn away by waves and sand.

It will be a couple of weeks before I can go back to the beach, as we enter another period of only high tides during the day... the end of January and early February bring the next set of lower tides during daylight hours. In the meantime, there is lots of sorting to be done.

In a sense, the timing of the tides works out well for this month, as the rest of this week will mostly be spent with photography and prep work for the upcoming sea glass auction.

As much as I enjoy walking on the beach and finding glass and pottery... I also find it rewarding to "play with my glass" after I get home-- to see just exactly what my frozen fingers picked up. On the more unusual items, I enjoy the detective work of trying to guess what the piece originally might have been part of.

I also enjoy sending glass to other sea glass enthusiasts and artists all around the world. I like the idea that things I find on the beach become part of "objects of beauty" other people get to enjoy. In the course of the last couple of decades, I have sent sea glass as far away as Australia and New Zealand, Japan and Argentina, as well as numerous countries around Europe. I love how the Internet has helped bring the global sea glass enthusiast community together.

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About Me

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1960 vintage Danish national now living in the Pacific Northwest... active in the global HSP community; active beach comber and sea glass collector; lifetime collector of postage stamps from Scandinavia; writer and consultant, primarily to the metaphysics and self-help industries, writer at OM Times magazine; artist who doodles on rocks; eBay & Etsy entrepreneur and studio and production assistant at Radio Nahmaste.

Diverse enough for you?