Tuesday, November 29, 2011

glass for sand

What happened to Glass Beach?  I did the childhood memory math, that is, divided by my 10-year-old memory to get what the place really must have looked like in nineteen seven--hey, never you mind what year--but my calculations were way, way off.  That long stretch of road leading to the water was the same.  Waist-high sea grass on either side, scrappy weeds lining the center of the road that was gated, surely no longer driven on.  It was the same!   The fog, sun breaking through in patches.  Just like back then!  I remembered walking along with my dad, his friend and my sister, hearing the ocean.  Feeling the damp cold on my cheeks.  And then, the glass.  What looked like miles of candy-color bits where there should have been sand.  Stunning, like in a movie.  All colors.  You could pick up handfuls and watch it fall, clinking together, ever smoother.  Each wave sorting and buffing, each step grinding and separating.  It felt like a dreamscape.  A true childhood moment.

Cut to me: November 2011, hope building as the road led to the sound of the waves.  And then, nothing.  Gone. It was all gone.  Not just the candy-colored glass but the entire beach was different.  Rough, broken cliffs with a 20-foot drop to the sand, spattered with lost, monotone puddles.  I paced around and had to get closer, climbing down, my husband saying too late that it didn't look safe.  I crouched down to look.  To see it for myself.  A few shiny bits.  Something you might call glass.  Completely unremarkable.  But the road was there.  The signs were there:  Glass Beach.  What happened?

After admitting more than 30 years had passed since I'd last visited, he scoffed at my surprise.  Of course, it's different, he said.  That was ages ago.   So I snapped a grainy, cheap cell phone photo and resigned myself to the fragile mental image of dunes of color, a king's ransom worth of discarded, broken glass.

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