I’ve been reading the book Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis. I have also been going to the beach almost every day. So I decided to try and chronicle some of my beach trips in a Davis-like style.
Beach Day 1:
To whoever keeps throwing glass bottles into the ocean:
Do you break them first and then sweep the debris into the water? Or do you just throw the whole bottle in and it then breaks by mysterious forces in the water? Do you consider the environmental consequences of your actions? Or do you just wish to make me—a beach treasure hunter and hoarder of blue sea glass—happy?
Beach Day 2:
The third piece of sea glass I found was a blue piece, which meant that I could go home.
Beach Day 3:
The first piece of sea glass I found was a blue piece, which meant that I could go home, but upon further examination I decided that its edges were a little too sharp. It looked like glass, not like sea glass, so I threw it back into the ocean. I did not find another piece of blue sea glass that day.
Beach Day 4:
I have become a sea glass connoisseur. I leave brown pieces lying among the rocks—too ugly. The greens and blues and clears must be smooth and have a nice triangular or square shape. Pieces that are too large, or that have sharp edges, or are weirdly oblong get thrown back into the ocean for more time. The best pieces have spent years (I assume) tumbling along the ocean floor, so that they are slightly clouded. The edges are rounded and not sharp.
Before I found today’s blue piece of sea glass, I found a piece of china. I traced its trajectory in my mind: An elderly French woman had tea on her hotel room balcony located on the coast of Normandy—in a town called Granville, north of St. Malo near the Mont St. Michel. She received a telegram telling her of her husband’s death. The teacup—delicate, white china with pink flowering details and a stamp on the bottom which says that it was made in Prussia—tumbled from her hand onto the floor of her balcony and shattered. One piece—my piece—bounced from the balcony floor, through the railing, and onto the sand below. The tide swept it away. For years, the piece of china followed the North Atlantic current. One day, by rare chance, it got caught in a tide that brought it across the Panama Canal so that it entered into the North Pacific current which brought it to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It went under the Deception Pass bridge and into Penn Cove where it washed up on the shore of Coupeville, Washington. On this fateful landing day I went to the beach and while looking for a blue piece of sea glass picked up the china to add to my collection of treasures. Its edges are soft and the pink flowers are now pink smudges.
Beach Day 5:
I found a bone. It felt very light. I tapped it and it sounded hollow. I decided it must be from the leg of a seagull. Then, looking around at the empty mussel shells, dried out driftwood logs, and broken pieces of crab exoskeletons I realized that the beach was full of dead things.
Beach Day 6:
I did not find a blue piece of sea glass today. “The beach will still be here tomorrow,” I told myself as I walked up the dirt path back to my house. Then I spent several moments envisioning apocalyptic scenarios in which the beach would not be there tomorrow.
Obviously no one can completely take on Davis’ dry and succinct ability to capture the ironies of the world, but this was a fun writing exercise. If anyone is looking for something to read I recommend Can’t and Won’t (or any of Lydia Davis’ books!)