Hominy & Hash: LIFE'S A BEACH
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- When I first saw a T-shirt emblazoned "L= ife's a Beach," I took it the wearer was just back from vacationing at a Cl= ub Med resort with sea, sand and casinos. And, I took the words to mean: "= That's the life, to be on a beach."
I was in Ohio, then. Now we're surrounded by beaches on anisland i= n the low country of Georgia, and I've learned that a beach isquite literal= ly a metaphor for life itself.
As with all life, the beach is made up of sunrises, sunsets, turbul= ence and terror. It is filled with joy and love, laughter and communion. Y= ou inhabit your surroundings with other forms of life. Your mind becomes th= readed with philosophy -- both your own and that of the ancients, while you= r soul fills with spiritual enlightenment that aches for even more.
= New to the beach, you'll find attitudes change, too, when you have time to = take a closer look. It's no different from the closer lookthat sharpens you= r vision in life as you know it.
At first, I would go to the beach mornings to collect what the outg= oing tides leaves behind. Just beneath the surface of the wet sands would = be the inimitable flat disk of the sand dollar and I'd lift it carefully in= to my colorful pail. I recall the excitement I felt. That was a time I'd c= ome home to soak these five-inch "mellita testudinatas" in bleach. In less = that an hour, they'd turn from dark ocean slime to a magnificent chalk whit= e.
On a bright sunny morning, feeling quite good about all the sand do= llars I had in my pail, I lifted one more treasure. As I brushed excess san= d from its surface, I turned it over. There, to my amazement, I saw over a= thousand cilia-like projections moving and moving, the motions not unlike = the legs of a beetle on its back. These "legs" were grasping at air. In to= tal silence I knew I was witnessing the same fright I would feel if groping= and trying to grasp something to hold meto my world.
I turned him over and placed him firmly back into the soft wetsand = so he would find something to grasp. The sandpipers chirped closer to my fe= et than usual, cheering me on and skittering about. I gingerly drizzled som= e wet sand over my charge and did the things we usually do when we don't kn= ow what we're doing. But, to my mind, I had him back in his element.
I checked the underside of the ones in my pail. There was no strug= gle, no movement, no life. Still, I tossed them back into the sea, hoping f= or the therapeutic power of water to work some miracle. I scaled them one a= t a time beyond the breakers, just in case some support system was there t= o catch them. I knew they were dead. I allowed my mind to suppose their li= feless forms resting in the silt would remind others to listen to their sea= -dwelling elders: "Don't get caught in the tide, it's a jungle out there. T= hey're out to get you."
How callous I felt that morning, and now as well, more than ever, w= ith all the constant reminders. Every shop on the island sells sand dollar= s -- white for a buck, spray painted for two. Life is cheap. But, we know= that, don't we?
Along with the T-shirt philosophy that Life is a Beach, comes the b= umper sticker Life is not a Day at the Beach. Well, now, wait a minute. Cho= ose your day carefully here. If you think a day at the beach is what you se= e on a post card, then, okay, you're right. For the most part, real life i= s not a day at that beach.
A life that is a "day at the beach" is no picnic if it's one Yogi = Berra would describe by saying: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowde= d."
Twice a year, that would be our beach. We turn our beaches, curbsi= de parking and all, over to the tourists. It's necessary, ofcourse, and if= we were in summer cottages that are boarded up at season's end, we wouldn'= t notice the crowd. We'd be in it. All summer, there are those who come for= a week or two, feverishly collect shells and sand dollars, carry playpens,= beach buggies, volleyball nets, floats, build sand castles to walk around,= and aim cameras at toddlers just as I pass through their view finder. The= y make each moment count.It's vacationtime, at last. For them.
For us, it's not "a day at the beach," let me tell you. We wait it = out the way you do a storm. Here, in our year-round community, we lose no= t only our beaches to the crowds but a huge portion of our way of life. = During the "season" dogs can't run on the beach without a leash. It's a= necessary rule, of course, since we don't want them running across a touri= st's blanket, kicking sand, grabbing a sandwich. Ah, but we miss the pleasu= re of watching them socializing with other dogs they haven't seen recently,= or, running into the waves after a tennis ball, shaking the sea from their= coats. They run and run until they wear themselves out just being frisky. = You only think dogs can't smile!
Tourists are doing the same thing, come to think of it. They're cut= ting loose, and they want to move around and see and play and taste and sav= or. They've been cooped up and now it's time to be frisky. Tourists revel i= n having beer parties and make-shift luaus; huge volleyball games and touch= football, being buried alive and digging trenches. And, they laugh. They = laugh uproariously and speak over the sound of their blaring music. Then, a= fter a beer or two, they fall asleep in the blazing sun at high noon.
We're not in a hurry when we go to the shore. We like watching the = moon rise over the ocean while waves roll onto a quiet beach. Welike coaxi= ng a hermit crab out of the conch shell he's adopted. If wewant a beer on a= hot summer's day, well, there's the refrigerator.
And, each night, we finish watching the news of the rest of the wor= ld and ask: "Who's gonna walk the dog?" Whoever gets the long endof the l= eash has been known to yawn and say: "Life's a Bit*h.!" Well, it can be th= at -- wherever you live it.