Beachcomber; One who scavenges along beaches or in wharf areas, a seaside vacationer.
I stand on the beach strewn with rocks and shells and crazy collages of human refuse; old bottles, faded shoes, sunglasses, a pair of worn Levi’s; a real sandy junk yard. Everything looks old, but it’s just the sun having beaten down on them for so long. I feel old too, but it’s just the quiet that does it to me; I am still relatively young, it’s just my mind that ages here.
Georgian Bay, on the southern shore of Lake Huron, is flat limestone plain and cedar marshes. The Anishinaabeg First Nations peoples to the North and Huron-Petun (Wyandot) to the south own this land, in spirit anyway. I feel I own it too, in some primordial way. When I walk this beach, one of the longest stretches of beach in North America by the way, 8.7 miles of it, I become lost in time. I walk with the ancients, and their ghosts. I could discover the meaning of life here, given enough time.
The meaning of life; I feel ill-equipped to tackle the often heavy subject, but the surf and sand and distant seagulls point my soul in that direction anyway. I’ve often left my friends there on the beach to wander down the road, so to speak, usually late in the day when the sun is low across the water and the skies are turning dusky blue and rusty pink. This beach has another perk; you can walk out almost a quarter mile into the water and stare north to the horizon where there is nothing but sky and water, infinity, and aloneness. It’s like staring into a beautiful abyss.
Walking; further down the beach there are crags and rocks, where most of the best stuff is found. I find beautiful pieces of ornate sea-wood, which I keep for whittling by the fire. There are stones and rocks older then Moses here, and storm glass; Mother Nature takes old broken wine and beer bottle shards and buffs and sands them for years in the tides. When they return from this process they are smooth and round and lovely; I collect them by the handful. Sometimes I find old bones, seagulls, and fish. That’s okay, this is their place, and they are entitled to die here. I can find no more peaceful memorial ground then this. But the sky is growing long, and purple clouds are sailing across the darkening blue and I don’t want to leave this. I turn to look down the beach and see that my friends are packing things up, getting ready to leave, so I guess I must go. I scan the ground for another souvenir, a stone to take with me as a memento. I see a lovely buffed pink one and I pick it up, but suddenly I feel guilty. I should leave it, because it belongs here, and I have no right to take it. I put it back, and head for the crowd. They are far off in the distance, growing misty in the dusk, so I have plenty of time for thought.
I think about Jesse.
Did I ever tell you about Jesse? He’s a Dutch dwarf bunny, 8 years old now, pretty good for a rabbit. We got him Christmas Eve at a pet store for my girlfriend Clair in 2001. She took to him immediately, whenever she stopped crying for joy of course. Jesse is a spirited little cuss, and he makes a funny honking noise when he’s riled up. I was surprised at how cat-like he was; he’d sit on your lap and let you pet him for hours, he’d use a litter-box. He’d grunt his displeasure at you too. His fur is a winter white color, and he has sparkling blue eyes; the better to stare into our souls with. He’s been a great pet and a great companion for the past eight years.
We just found out he may have cancer.
Thinking of this as I walk the beach, I wonder about the meaning of things, and why people exist, and then die. Certainly not a new question and I’m certainly not the first to wonder about it, but at times when I’m faced with unpleasant things, I begin to wonder. I wonder about all the people who have ever lived and died and who have looked upon the same sun, sky and moon, who have walked the same Earth, sand, and beach, and I wonder what it all means.
This essay will not answer these questions.
So, when we finish our trip, leave Georgian Bay and head back into reality, we have to make a decision about Jesse. It’s one I don’t wish to make.
Leave no business unfinished, leave no stone unturned, and leave no person unloved. The meaning of life could be that simple.
I’ve reached my friends, and the closer I get, the further my existential thoughts are drifting away. They are young; I am young too, perhaps too young to be wrestling with these questions.
But it’s the beach, and the beachcomber in me. I search for answers in life as I do on the beach. It’s just my questing nature I guess.
The meaning of life will have to wait for another day.