Monday, March 29, 2010

Beach Brick and Beach Glass

A couple of summers during my college years, I lived in Montauk, Long Island, NY. There more than any other period in my life, I became a beachcomber. I especially loved picking up beach glass. One of those summers I had a running competition with a friend to pick up the most beach glass. But I was traveling light in those days, and actually gave him most of my glass when fall came and it was time for me to move on. So I do own a bowl or two of the frosty shards picked up from various beaches, but am by no means a major collector.

There's not as much beach glass around as there used to be, due to the widespread prevalence of plastic containers as well as anti-littering campaigns. My husband and I went to Galveston a week or so ago, and my long walks on the beach quickly became gathering sessions for a different kind of jetsam, weathered brick. Galveston is and will be getting over hurricane Ike (September, 2008) for years to come. The beaches have been sifted and cleaned of wreckage many times. What remains behind are these brick fragments. They are all over the dunes. Most of the brick is not whole, but I found myself imagining a small structure built of this brick, cobbled together in some artistic fashion. I think it would be neat if some artist were commissioned to build at least a commemorative sculpture from the stuff.

I lugged home a few buckets of the beach brick, and hope to make a mosaic planter or other artifact out of them. Then I decided to do a little reading about beach glass for this post and found many beach glass fanatics, activities and websites. The North American Sea Glass Association has an annual festival which this year will be held in Hyannis, MA. They have a Beach Shard of the Year contest with many categories, including bottle stoppers, most unusual, historical, etc. The best places to find beach glass include the northeast Atlantic shores, California, Puerto Rico, Spain and Italy. One mecca for beach glass enthusiasts has always been Fort Bragg, CA, but the best picking place there recently became a state park, and beachcombing is now forbidden. There is also a surfeit of less than genuine beach glass out there, sold in craft stores and dollar stores, created with rock tumblers. Bogus beach glass has a more uniform appearance than the real thing, and lacks the true frosty look which is created when the ocean leaches out lime and soda from the glass. Other names for beach glass include sea gems and mermaid's tears (but this term has also come to be used for small pieces of plastic tumbled by the sea).

I doubt that hurricane brick will become the new beach glass, but I was awed by its rough/soft, faded beauty. Mother Nature in her diversity has created a new treasure for hunters and gatherers!

photo by KAO: Hurricane brick and beach glass in basket

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