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Essay No. 2

The beach is always resetting itself into smooth perfection again.  As a kid, I remember being baffled by whatever magical force did that every time I turned away. And, for a while I made as much mess as I could...moats, shell-studded walls, ring-castles and Sea Oat contraptions...but nothing ever survived the cosmic, flattening reset button of the tide.  I see myself again: sitting cross legged, back to the water, the sun having made my shoulder-skin hot to the touch, sand underneath my fingernails.  Other kids, seagulls, somewhere far off at the edge of my hearing.  And then, there’s water.  My breath taken away.  A sudden lifting, wave, air, and sand churning together so furiously, my lap lost, and then that undercutting as the water rushes back downhill to the sea, where you feel the sand and shell-crush erode out from under you.  The dynamism of that environment is overwhelming.  And, yet it’s always smoothing-down, leveling-out, and starting-over.

In the photograph of the shells, with the V tracks left by the water, I like thinking about how they stood firmly in the horizontal space of the beach, in their relative position to the dunes, and the residential structures, even the no-wake buoy a hundred yards off shore.  But, they couldn’t hold on to their up and down place.  Anchored in one dimension, another axis changed on them.  There is solidity on barrier islands, but not in the way that you were expecting it.  And I’m trying to capture that feeling.

Some of the photographs I’ve made record the scarification imposed on the sand by storm water.  A collision happens when rain is washing towards the sea, while the sea itself is surging onto the land.  It’s hard to tell whether the drain-paths are raised or indented, like when your eye gets lost a bit on a topographical map, and in the middle, away from the edges, you suddenly can’t see what’s supposed to be up or down, mountain or valley.  Or, maybe you can see two worlds at once, two alternative possibilities…the photo negative and the photo positive.  I love the duality of water.  It’s so powerful, yet slips through your fingers; evaporates, freezes, and flows so mutably, while we stay the same; we humans can’t live in it, but we so clearly want to live by it.  Water is a change agent, especially the sea, but also one of our most important symbols of cleansing and purification.  Scarification and regeneration cycle endlessly on the beach.