The Beachcombers


Searching for treasures on the beach is like hunting for the last vestiges of summer, presenting you with small fragments that remind you of the sand and the sun, long after the warmest season has departed.

Summer: the season of sun. It’s when people flock from the glare of city pavements to the enveloping sea breeze of the seaside, seeking respite from the heat. For some people, this means an opportunity for water sports and unbridled physical activity, while others relish the chance to sunbathe, prone figures sprawled out across the sand.

As the weather begins to cool, the water feels too cold, the sun masked by clouds. The wind picks up, and the waves look less inviting. People begin to retreat inside, one by one, as the leaves lose their vibrant green leaves in exchange for cloaks of ruby and golden brown.

However, there is still one activity, a final remnant of summer: beachcombing.

Beachcombing has an inherent mystery and draw. For one, everything you see is an unexpected delight. Shells sparkle in the sand, and upon closer inspection, you might find a fragment of a mussel, or a conch, or a whole clam shell. Edges might be razor sharp, evidencing a recent meal, or dulled by days and nights of pounding by the waves. Seagulls leave behind legs of crabs, faded and bleached from weeks of exposure to the elements. Feathers, mottled with sand and damp with sea foam, jut out from the shoreline, bending weakly in the wind like tiny flags. Brilliant metallic bottle caps break the monotony of grays and greens and browns, a reminder of the human activities that took place in the recent past. Every piece has a past and a story.

A fragment of porcelain washed up on the shore

This is even truer of the pieces that wash up from another shore, or wrecks sunken in distant seas from an age long past. Broken shards of pottery and terracotta, in arrays of rusty reds, smooth or porous, might have held fragrant herbs in a beachfront garden, or seedlings in transit from a nursery. Fragments of porcelain and china, lightly patterned with crackled or speckled glazes, are sometimes decorated with printed motifs, or part of a manufacturer’s stamp. Pieces of glass, translucent and stained in shades of blue or green or brown, are worn down into smooth glass baubles.

Beachcombing might be most optimal for days of rough tides and unpredictable weather. The clouds lurking just off the shore churn up the sea, sending choppy waves landward to carry new treasures yielded from the belly of the sea. Swirling waves reach towards cliffs and seashores, sweeping up discarded bottles and pots, and claiming even pieces that weren’t for the taking. In the calm between storms, when the chill invites wool sweaters and waterproof raincoats, you can bundle up and forage, spending a few last moments with the lapping, teasing tides at the shore before scrambling back inside. In the warmth of the indoors, you can sort through the glinting treasures you scooped up before your hasty retreat back home.

A discarded crab leg entangled in seaweed
A shard of green patterned pottery in the sand

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