If you drop here in often you will know that I love my beach walks and, in the past few months, especially, I have been incredibly grateful for being able to walk everyday. On Instagram I have been sharing one minute of my beach every day for two months. Until this week. This week a series of storms have rendered my beach inaccessible – because so much sand has been washed away that the stairs end well above the sand line, and the footings of those stairs are hovering mid air.
Versions of this problem occur right along the coast, but I did manage eventually to find the one point where the beach is accessible, about ten kilometres from here. You can imagine I was already feeling sad about my own favourite beach being out of bounds for the forseeable future, but when I did get onto this other beach, I was doubly sad when I saw all the rubbish washed up by the storm – plastic of all shapes and sizes, ropes, bottles, fishing tackle, you name it. I stomped around the shore collecting what I could and ferrying it up to the bin, and came home a little cranky about people who litter and pollute our oceans.
But later I paused to wonder if there was any good in this. All I could come up with was that I was giving back. The beach has been my sustenance these past few months, and now I was returning the favour with giving the damaged beach some care. From that, I was left with the seed of a poem.
Here’s that poem (or its first draft, anyway):
You have frolicked on my shore
Swimming splashing diving
In my nourishing waters.
You’ve felt my sand between your toes
And taken deep breaths of my essence.
You’ve glided across my depths.
And I have welcomed you.
But I have not been fond
Of your discards:
By all but me
(It’s hard to ignore the sick rumbling
Deep in your stomach)
Now, at last.
I’ve had enough.
All night I’ve raged and rumbled
and now your waste
Is spewed upon
Those very shores
Take it back.
I don’t want it.
I’ve also reclaimed some of my sand.
If you are very good
And show you’ve learnt your lesson
I might give it back some time.
Maybe before next summer.
(Copyright Sally Murphy 2020)
Funny how writing a poem always makes you feel a little bit better. I do still miss my beach though – so I went looking for another poem I wrote (and recorded for Poetry Friday) a few years ago about the things the sea leaves us:
I look forward to more treasures – hopefully I don’t have to wait till next Summer! (Although I do know, especially now, that being unable to walk on the beach is a very first world problem!)
If you want more poetry treasure, Mary Lee is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup at A Year of Reading.