If the wind comes just right, you can catch a wave of sound from the dredge. Regardless of how I personally feel about the euphemism called “beach nourishment,” it is a spectacle worth a much-delayed trip to the beach. The beach, if you face the water, no matter what they do on the land behind you, remains very much the same. The ocean is a hinterland that the average person has little access to. I heard a scientist explain that we know more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the sea. This is true on a biological level and a technological level.
When I look out at the dredge—I guess that from Sagg Main it is at least a half mile to that hovering ship, and it does look like a spaceship—the image immediately invokes a memory I have of a submarine surfacing off Gibson Beach. My friend Stacy and I went to the beach a lot. Not in the summer so much as in the stormy offseason, always on a hopeful reconnaissance: beach glass, stones, driftwood, money. This day we saw the sub, we’d gone for the starfish that a nor’easter washed up. I can remember these things but not the submarine, only its color, its bulk—and our terror.
My thoughts then move to the time I was running for exercise and, as I crossed the cut at Sagg Main, I saw a quarter in the sand. Where the water had drained, and with the ocean at low tide, you could cross a marvelous stretch of geology. It was not a quarter but something that had been there perhaps much longer—it was a coin from the 13th century, money that a minor pope or a king would have minted for his crusaders. “No, they didn’t get blown off-course,” an expert later explained. “Such coins were still in circulation in colonial times.” He mused, however, “It is very interesting.”
There are hundreds of seagulls on the beach today. Many are immature and are still sooty black. With binoculars I watch a family of gannets, bright white, black-tipped, cartwheel into the ocean. All this against the elaborate structure of rain squalls just off the coast.
I am in the frame of mind to appreciate the dredge for its sheer strength. It is a small natural disaster—but the same could be said of each and every one of us.