Still sopped from a late thaw, the earth holds down my muddy boots while I clomp along combing for treasures and trash.
An embedded Lay's potato chip bag. An ancient Schlitz beer can. An empty clam shell or two.
A solar light the wind carried from our neighbor's dock. More empty clam shells.
Connecting the treasures to the trash are fresh prints left by Canada Geese that passed through earlier. Grunting and chattering as they strolled along this same path, their markings leave a trail which disappears straight into waves lapping on the shore.
Raccoons journeyed here, too. You can tell by their distinct print, with relatively petite fingerlike paws.
As the shoreline tolerates my stomping from one find to the next, she tries hard to hold me back.
Like quick drying cement, clinching my feet, she is determined to control and limit my wanderings.
With resilient glee over my love for beachcombing, I fight back. Struggling with each giant step, I lift one foot after another out of and back into the sandy mire.
The easier thing to do when beachcombing is to not stop. Let the momentum carry you.
Keep going until you run out of things to find. If you stop for too long, you surely will get stuck in a muddy mess.
A short list of treasures I've found while beachcombing in this very same place propels me to keep searching.
A stout heavy milk glass jar plum full of pure petroleum jelly. A thick layer of sand served as its long gone lid.
A big old rusty wheel cog, a piece of coconut shell and a chrome hood ornament.
I move along a little farther toward something shiny. It's a medallion with an etching: "I love my poodle."
This springtime lure to the shoreline reminds me of other beaches. Most memorable was the beach just off the boardwalk on Jersey's south shore, where I visited in late March. The year was 1983.
From the highway leading to the expansive Atlantic Ocean, that beach was dotted with a spectacular array of colors.
As I moved closer, my heart jumped with a preemptive thrill over collecting many beautiful shells.
With a plastic bag hanging from my arm, I pursue nature's treasures washed ashore.
I proudly marched from my car, up over the boardwalk and onto the deep dry beach to find that it was mostly garbage.
Imposters thrown back by the sea, every last colorful piece of trash was now strewn over the beach.
Pop cans and perfume bottles. Vitamin containers and vegetable cans. Toothpaste tubes and tampon applicators.
When beachcombing on either coast, it is hard to believe that the ocean has been used as a garbage fill.
Smoothed shards of glass and soggy splinters of wood. Styrofoam packaging and sterling silverware.
Once out of sight, now in plain view for all to see.
Used condoms, emptied douche dispensers and tossed pill bottles.
All kinds of garbage washed up there.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail paulada firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 Paula Damon