Many days, beachcombing seems like a fading luxury of a hobby to me. I have watched over the last decade as one of my favorite beaches on the Chesapeake Bay has disappeared, “one acre of shoreline a year” as one coastal landowner reported to me; by kayak it feels like more.
I keep a copy of William Cronin’s harrowing book Disappearing Islands of the Chesapeake Bay at my waterfront writing cottage on one of the islands of the Chesapeake even as some days I watch as the water floods around the cottage and I wonder how long this island will remain– others will go before it. The offshore islands of Smith and Tangier are the most threatened and I am so thankful of the work photographer Chesapeake Bay photographer Jay Fleming does in documenting the way of life in this changing places. This great article “Vanished Chesapeake Islands” describes how we are losing our beautiful coast. It’s rare to see sand on the Chesapeake- it’s mostly riprap and bulkhead now as the water rises and the shoreline disappears. Some locals prefer not to think of it as the water rising- one time when asked about how all the beaches on the island were gone, one simply said it was because the island was sinking.
Such is the state of the coastline near me. What about you? Is the beach smaller than it used to be? Is there a narrow strip of sand where a larger one used to be? I feel like whenever I see shots of beaches on tv, it appears tiny ribbons of sand are squeezed between vast oceans of sea and manmade oceans of concrete and steel.
We should appreciate every moment of time we have on a shoreline. Whether time spent in reflection or healing, or with a loved one whose presence makes our time spent equally special, we never know when something could happen to take this time at the coast away from us. One hurricane up a coast or other tragedy could destroy this fragile space. The finds we take with us and treasure become mementoes of our times spent on shorelines and deserve to be protected and treasured as well.
I have spent the pandemic creating a temporary “tiny museum space,” sorting, organizing and cataloguing the international collection of The Beachcombing Center, searching for a permanent exhibit space since our initial plans were destroyed by Covid, and writing grants so that we can secure funding for our future space. I hope you will join me in our important efforts to preserve this collection, or even consider donating one very special find.
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