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…