I spend a lot of time on the beach, walking and thinking and taking pictures. In this public space, even in a crowd, I feel a sense of solitude. Wrapped in the sounds of the sea, the wind on my face and the sun on my shoulders I pay attention the rhythms of the earth. I notice the ways the landscape changes, the habits of the seabirds, the movement of the sun and the moon, and the way the tides ebb and flow. No two days are ever the same…and yet this place is always the same.
I also notice the people who come in many shapes and sizes. I notice that they are more the same than different, looking like the people who live in my neighborhood and attend the school where I work. Of course there are visitors, vacationing along the shore…and the ever present #beachpeople who constantly interest, inform, and surprise me with all the things they do at the beach.
In this place, people shower in public,
play in public,
hangout in public,
and learn in public.
And with my camera in my hand, most people pay little attention to me even while I pay a lot of attention to them.
After all, this is a public place. Everyone is welcome. Or are they?
Sometimes I wonder about the gulls, often looked upon as pests. I’ve heard them called “rats,” a nod to their role as scavengers…and maybe to their highly adaptable behavior.
But who else is not welcome here? I notice patrols on the beach, mostly lifeguards but sometimes sheriffs in their vehicles cruise the beach. Are they keeping beachgoers safe or looking for troublemakers? Do those mean the same thing?
And where does public end and private begin? At the no trespassing sign?
What does my privilege allow me to see? And what does it blind me to?
So much to consider as I walk this beach…
I smiled when I read your post just after I posted mine. The contrasts are interesting. Now I am reflecting on privilege and the pier. Many who live and go to beaches further south would never step foot near the pier because of Oceansides’s reputation as an unsafe city. I am also contemplating the fact that many of the students at my school have never been or rarely go to the beach even though it is so close–and accessible. They don’t have the opportunity because of life circumstances.
Janis and Kim, your two blogs side by side show how complex and invisible these “public” issues are. Interesting you wrote them on my he same day. Great writing on the issues!
These two questions “What does my privilege allow me to see? And what does it blind me to?” are two questions I wish everyone who has an opinion on “those people should just” would ask themselves. Privileged people cannot understand that others mindset are very different than theirs, and their lives inhibit their choices. As I try to wrap my own mind around “welcoming everyone, ” being invitational, and stepping back to an even bigger picture, or sidestepping to another view as Nick does in his comics, then I wonder “”where do we start?”
Like Sheri, I am reading yours and the post by Janis side by side, and I am struck by the lens in which you can view the world, and how you both bring us into the experience with powerful artistry and spirit. It seems as if the camera lens allows you to reflect a little deeper because you need to notice the scene, the people, the experience.
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