Thursday, 5 January 2012


I know we're into longer days and just past the point of latest sunrise ( read all about the Equation of Time) but as the summer still seems a long way away I should share some of my images and thoughts  of beaches with you.

I am never so happy as when on a beach.

Time can just fly away, begone dull care!

 I build sandcastles;

 dig tunnels to Australia;

dam the drainage of the outgoing tide;

build sea-walls against the incoming;

watch the sky fall as the day ends;

see sea birds strut and preen;

fly kites;

 feel underfoot the hard corrugated sand made by wind and wavelet;

walk shakily down steep shingle banks and fight pebble slides to regain position.

A beach brings 2π steradians of sky, 180 degrees of solid angle, the sea air strips out the dust to make the light frightfully direct.

The senses are heightened to pick out calls above the continuous sound of waves and the distances available to spread out and leave all others behind, only to find another child ready to join in hydrology and civil engineering of dam and sea wall.

The visual memories now are reinforced by the family movies, 25ASA Kodachrome in 50’s yellows to counter a 5600K colour temperature with Standard-8 on a Bell&Howell rig. Inevitably these seem two stops over-exposed with a searing flash of light as the trailer runs through, punctuated by the hole punches in the emulsion.

The images I bring here recapitulate my visual memory yet there are more; every yellow stone, potentially an amber treasure; and, rivulets of sandy water, run through fingers forming worm cast statues below.

The non-visual memories are those of stinging, windblown sand and chilly North Sea water; squishy tides of sea weed; wet cozzies to be peeled off and friction towels ready; the tug of kite strings and the squeal of sea-birds; the rattle of dinghy halyards and a jump from high side to low side of a groyne.

At the end of the day the sun crashes into a low bed of cloud -- the  fabled, green flash seen but once in the Pacific -- and the air temperature plummets though colour temperatures rocket.

The sea turns black and it is time for home.

My belief is that the beach, beyond my sentimental history, is a unique place for reaching out to the universe and for discovery of beauty. It is a minimal space, a robust process of wind and tide strip out inessentials. 

It is a place of interface, elemental, where earth,air,water and fire come in contact and we behold their incidence. Water and air combine as wave, the sun as fire warms water for the clouds.

The sea and the land play out another conflict warming the air above them differentially, the winds swing between off and onshore; the cloud fronts often mirror the coast below.

The water’s edge is an ever varying uncertainty.

We thus are offered a unique light mediated by clouds and scattered by waves; we find a record of the past 12 or so hours tide laid out at the margin, further from the water we see the impact of air and the carved nature of sand dunes.

In a crowded island, the beach marks the perimeter of our vision and captivates those who find themselves centrifugally removed from the busy interior life of the centre. Our footsteps behind us in the sand show where we have come from. Our next step is ours alone to make.

No comments:

Post a Comment