I’ve had some trouble with idioms and sayings. I was recently surprised when I posted a photo of my dog on her back at the beach [her submissive 'rub my tummy' pose] with the caption that she’s “died and gone to heaven” [with an exclamation point, I believe] and had to field comments about condolences for her passing. Oops. I guess people take me pretty literally…
To keep with this tongue-in-cheek literalness, how about ‘life is a beach’…I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. My guess is that people mean that life is easy, lazy, warm, sandy and one big vacation. I haven’t met that life. Not that life has been particularly hard or easy, nor that I hate life, but a beach isn’t the first thing I’d pair with the word life, eh.
On second thought, I suppose it depends on which way you look at the beach. Let’s start with the sand.
Most sand is essentially recycled mountains. Erosional processes that have worked tirelessly at the seemingly sturdy rocks, breaking them down into teeny pieces that will eventually become…rocks again, perhaps. Here on the North Coast of California, the mountains are sea floor sediments mushed together like mounds of mash potatoes. Decayed rocks that have reformed new rocks.
Now about the stuff that washes up on the beach. Sea foam is something you’ll find on these beach often. The ubiquitous muck is mostly protein. The meringue-like substance originates from who knows where–dead creatures, dead plants, but comes together to form the white froth that stains our shoes. Eventually it will be broken down or taken up and reformed into something else other than the froth, much like the sand.
There are much larger things that wash up, of course. Logs of all sorts and cuts appear on the beach and embody the life of driftwood. The wood wasn’t always drifting, instead being seemingly sturdily rooted in the ground, perhaps far away from the beach. I have heard some of this driftwood is left from the time when the cutters came to take away the redwoods to other far off ports. Some of the trees were destined to make houses in Hawaii and elsewhere, while some abandoned ship and took up the marine life of floating around the Pacific. Some of the driftwood has for sure originated from Redwood Creek, washing down eventually to be deposited on the beach and taken away when the Ocean wants it back. The wood will take its slow time to break down, all the while housing various creatures and tempting visitors to take home the most wave-battered planks.
Other forms of life are represented on the beach by either their presence or remnants. I haven’t seen a grebe or rhinoceros auklet on this stretch of coast recently, but then again, I am pretty sure these two didn’t step foot onto this beach while alive either. They will be food for many creatures until they cease to exist in their previous form, continuing on as particles of other creatures and the environment. The presence of life is sometimes hard to detect on these beaches. Some days, birds, beach fleas, and clams are obvious; other days a desert-like hush lurks beneath the crashing waves and pelting rain.
Now, it has been said that there are several types of people in this world and that it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round. I couldn’t agree more! The beach where I spend half my working hours is a prime example of that. There are those who come and plop a beach chair down or stand for a long time to admire the view, escape the troubling thoughts and bustle of their lives. Sometimes they bring a book. Another type that comes doesn’t come for relaxation, but to investigate, to hunt for answers and insight into the drama that unfolds on the beach. Whichever way we choose to enjoy the beach, it’s a short visit in the grand scheme of things. And in either case, life’s a beach for us all.