Friday, July 18, 2008


There are always compensations in life, if one stays open to finding them. When I lived in High Country, I enjoyed walking around the in the hills, following tracks kept clear by deer and cattle, or sitting in a pasture full of native wildflowers on land that had never been turned. There was always something interesting to see, some little treasure to find: a feather, a glacier-scarred rock, some old bones. Afternoons like that, overlooking the valley towards the ridge and the snow-covered peaks, were going to be a tough act to follow. But arriving here on the North Shore, I discovered a different vista, and a whole other beauty.

The Rockies change very slowly; they keep to geological time. Lake Erie changes literally with the wind. The onshore wind pushes the waves up against the breakwall. It can be a gentle lap, or a choppy white-capped rhythm, or a wild geyser-like vertical eruption. In November, gale force winds carried more than the usual fine window-streaking spray, taking entire waves and dashed them one after another against the glass, in rapid blasts that looked and sounded like they came from a fire hose. Other days bring an offshore wind, which cancels out the waves, and leaves the lake glassy, with only the faintest shirr. Even with a few ripples, the summer lake is a perfect mirror for sunsets and moonsets, for drifting clouds and resting fishing boats. In winter, the natural movement towards shore piles up solid ridges of ice, and makes a new terrain for foxes and coyotes to explore. Then in spring, the ice breaks up and reveals the beaches again. Round and round it goes.

I discovered I have a keen interest in beachcombing. The best time is after a good storm, which always tosses up new things to see, including a fascinating assortment of organic and inorganic jetsam – mostly plastics, some dead fish, beechnuts, and duckweed. It also washes up beachglass, tumbled nuggets that used to be bottles and car windows, insulators and tableware. The really old pieces come in bright jewel colors; the newest is most likely to be clear, green or brown, but all of it is sugar-frosted and smooth from its time in the waves and sand. The pieces I prize the most are some bottle stoppers from early 1900’s medicine bottles, and several lumps of what’s called bonfire glass, or trash glass – glass that dates back to the days when people burned bottles in with their garbage, and then dumped the ashes into the lake. Once in the water, the chunks of melted glass got worn and frosted just like the rest. Sometimes you can still see embossed logos: pale green Coke bottles, cornflower blue Milk of Magnesia, dark red Anchor Hocking beer bottles. The history of each piece has been worn away; only the romance of finding a little gem in the sand remains.

Photos of elk bones and beachglass by D. Godin

1 comment:

Poetikat said...

The joys of discovery. I'm sure it must be the most delightful pastime. You must lose yourself entirely in the pursuit of unusual treasure.


(Please, come read my Trilogy of animal rescues just posted today.)