Sea, Seacoast & Seahore (Part I)

For millennia, the sea has held a profound allure. An attraction inherited perhaps from ancient ancestors who gazed out on these same sea-green horizons, sensing their own ties to single-celled evolutionary forebears; progenitors that evolved out of a murky primordial soup left long simmering in the steaming cauldron of primeval seas. However fanciful the foregoing may sound, pelagic waters do seem to possess a singular draw beyond the usual; be it aesthetic, climatic or a simple need for solitude, each of these conditions can be satisfied elsewhere. Still, the lure of the sea trumps all and seems somehow connected to a tenuous yet tenacious thread that binds the umbilicus of man to enigmatic roots firmly anchored in the unfathomable depths.

Three spheres of existence – sea, land and sky – share a common border where this sense of connection with primal marine ancestry may stir sagacious musings on the quintessential nature of man. Here, where ancient amphibians first crawled out of the sea and blinkingly faced the unfiltered radiant effects of the sun, sentient descendants return to pay homage, if only sub-consciously, to those that instinct impelled ashore. Who among us, when driving along the seacoast, has not felt an odd impulse to stop, presumably to feel the power of the elements at the juxtaposition of oceanic, tropospheric and terrestrial realms; but perhaps it is something more?

Over the course of eons, nature has endowed some of these points of convergence with more accommodating settings than the severe rock or cliff-bound terrain typical of many coastlines. Down through the ages, a parade of generations has made use of these often softly sand-carpeted zones as sites for enjoyable interaction with the sea. Doubtless, many a pleasant childhood memory forever implanted in more mature minds the idea of the seashore as a wondrous playground complete with its own built-in amusements: sea, surf and sand.

Yes, for some, the beach is a scene of interminable annoyance: the grit of windblown sand seems to infiltrate near impenetrable interstices; squawking seagulls harass beachgoers, while either begging for food or dive-bombing with payloads of guano; unruly children scream and holler as they splash about the surf hurling sodden sand that , unintentionally or not, always ends up where it should not; even the sun, which slavish worshipers deem the main attraction, appears to blaze unmercifully, seeming to sear the skin and to scorch the very psyches of the exasperated.

Yet, for others, the beach represents the preeminent outdoor phenomenon: balmy, breeze filled days provide welcome relief from the sweltering cities; a mass of humanity, mostly strangers, affords a surfeit of subjects for surreptitious people watching; those with an inclination may enjoy vigorous sporting activities, either water or beach based. Other more leisurely modes of gratification present themselves: reading; listening to music; or simply lounging without a care, ensconced clandestinely amidst tufted sand knolls. More, the beach allows for that most personal of all interactions with the sea: the near womb-like sensation one experiences (albeit at slightly cooler temperatures) when totally immersed in surging ocean waters; the rhythmic wax and wane of the waves seem subliminally to suggest maternal respiration.

Some beaches lie on remote coastlines. Of these, a number are only within the reach of those willing to embark on extended hikes; in more extreme cases, gaining these secluded shores requires a vessel of some sort. On the other hand, many beaches present comparatively easy access, with communities large and small built up around or near them. Later postings to this folder will focus on a relatively short stretch of Northern California’s spectacular seacoast, three hamlets that arose there and their proximate beaches.

© Stephen Alexander 2008

Sea, Seacoast & Seahore (Part I)

stephen hewitt

Lanexa, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

An essay on the sea and its attendant accesses (Part 1 of a four-part series about Northern California coastal communities)

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