We have recently returned from a really great visit to England, which we will likely post about here. I have a conference trip planned for San Francisco planned for later this week. Jolie is joining me for this. So this is proving to be a busy, fast moving and well traveled summer. Some highlights from this past week, however, entail visits to places closer to home – specifically to two delightful beach locations, one of which is intimately familiar and the other a first time experience. So, accompanying a really great weather week (sunny, in the low 80s F and with relatively low humidity), a beach visit seemed like a must.

And that is a good thing, as I love the beach!

So, on Tuesday, I packed my overnight bag and made my way back to Beach Haven on Long Beach Island to visit with my mom, my sister Pat (who was also there visiting) and our good friend Barbara. I was looking forward to seeing them all, but also to seeing the sand and the ocean. And to walking along the beach and to taking a dip in the ocean.

So, here are some photos from Tuesday, the day of my arrival, I left home just before noon and made a few pit stops along the way (most notably,in Paramus, NJ for a burger topped with queso sauce,  roasted green chiles  and pickled red onions), I arrived at just after three pm. My family was out and left me a note to welcome me down.

So, down to the beach i went. I was very happy to be there.

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When I returned to my mom’s house from this quick visit, I sat out on the back deck with a cold summer ale and a copy of the local paper (“The Sandpaper”). Then, everyone came back and greeted me. my mom then went into the house, where she’d been going through old stuff that was packed away, and came out to show me some things from memory lane – some old clay figures that I had made when I was a child and also, likely from the same era of my childhood, a part of a GI Joe set, a plastic mummy’s tomb piece. How funny to see these things that I had completely forgotten about after all these years.

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The next morning, I happened to wake up super early, just before six am. I could have rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep. On the other hand, I’ve become enamored in recent years of early morning visits to the beach at around the time that the sun is rising. There is nothing quite like the experience of the beach at that moment. Trust me on this!

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So many thoughts go through my head when i am here or as I look at these photos. One thought is one of gratitude to be able to experience such a place. Another is nostalgia and the memory of people who are no longer with us, but with whom I stood on these beaches. I am not especially religious. I consider myself something of a humanistic pantheist, theologically speaking. But I understand the impulse of my mom’s local Catholic parish to see these beaches as a piece of divine creation and to use them as the site for sunrise Easter vigils. I can respect that impulse.

The other thought is this. I become more and more concerned with what we are doing to our oceans, and in fact, to our entire planet, with each passing day. I try to follow the news, including the science news, and it is often not very encouraging. We may be at a point of no return. I hope that that is not the case. Time, of course, will tell. This is the same beach, after all and the same small barrier island that was underwater following Hurricane Sandy back in the Fall of 2012. I’ve already posted about this earlier and posted about LBI’s recovery. But thinking ahead, and to a future of rising sea levels, This precious island may, like a beloved family pet, have a limited lifespan. And the thought of this is very unsettling.

But, at the immediate moment, I was simply very happy to be on this beach and in this moment and to be enjoying this moment of connection with nature – the sea, the dunes, the sand, the sea birds, and the shells along the shore, as well as the feeling of my feet touching the soft sand and the warm water. That part of the experience felt truly blissful.

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As did the tranquil quietness of the moment – very few people around: calm, quiet, and with the sounds of nature surrounding me.

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And I’m not exactly a surfer (though I do like doing a bit of body surfing in the waves) but I do appreciate surfers’ athleticism and their inherent need for a clean, healthy environment (something they share with skiers, hunters, fishermen, hikers, trail bikers and anyone else whose leisure activities require a stable natural environment, regardless of their politics. Some surfers, in fact, who are explicitly environmentally minded, have even started up a surfing based environmental organization. Kudos to them. Anyway, I am thinking of this because, as there usually are, there were surfers out in the water, early, trying to catch a wave.

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As the early morning continued on the beach, I had another goal, and that was to look for sea glass. Jolie and I have been collecting sea glass for the past few years. Jolie is hoping that we can eventually collect enough pieces so as to craft a sea glass bowl with them. She is hoping to do something along the lines of this example, crafted and described on a blog called Debi’s Design Diary. 

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To me, that sounds like it will be really nice. Since Jolie was not able to be joining us for this mid-week beach visit (because of work; I’m off for the next few weeks) I was especially wanting to bring her back some sea glass. I looked along the shore on several beaches. Eventually I found a beach that had a lot of shells and other debris from the ocean washing up to the shore. I knew that this would be the place to look.

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I’m happy to say that after two days of intensive sea glass hunting, I was successfully able to find a number of pieces, including a somewhat rare blue piece. Here is my “haul.”

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I was really happy to be able to bring these back to Jolie, particularly the blue one. When I first spotted it, it eluded by grasp. It was under the shallow water, but sea glass in that location is challenging to grab because of the water being in motion.

In addition to this activity, I also got to enjoy taking a quick dip in the water and also catching at sunset at the bay. The beach had a lot of different activities going on. I was also happy to have my sister join me for my afternoon beach visit.

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The next day was more of the same – up at the crack of down, and back to the beach, 7/11 coffee in one hand and camera in the other.

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After a while, I thought I’d might go down toward Holgate, that is the southern end of the island. When I got there, however, I learned that the beach continued to be closed because of erosion, a situation that has continued following Hurricane Sandy’s wrath. The area remains a bird sanctuary. Here is the view.

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Finally, after my beach time was done, I made my way into town, where I saw these really cool retro bikes, bought an “elephant ear” pastry,  and picked up a plant for my mom. I also paid a visit to a few favorite shops, including a local craft shop and a novelty store that has been there forever called the “Parlor” (formerly the “Dollar Parlor”)

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The next day – starting out for some really amazing old school brick oven pizza at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. Truly a memorable lunch of pizzas, one topped with pepperoni and other with clams. The place had a real old school charm. There was even another food scholar there standing in line and taking a photo, obviously charmed by the place as much as we were.

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Finally, to our final destination: Hammonasset Beach State Park, in Madison, CT, to look for more sea glass.

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starting with the nature center, and then – leaving our shoes behind – making our way toward the beach. Here, by the way, is a larger map, courtesy of Google Maps showing the beach’s location on the Long Island Sound.

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The beach, as you can see, was sizable, sandy, and facing out toward the blue ocean waters of the Long Island Sound. Jolie and I were truly happy to be here. Here we are, exploring for sea glass.

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After looking for about an hour, we were relatively successful, finding a total of six smallish brown sea glass pieces, along with a number of small, very smooth glass like sea pebbles. We kept a few of those, as well.

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Before we left, I continued walking a bit further along the beach and out onto a very sizable jetty. A lot of people were out on it some walking and some using it as a sort of dock for fishing.

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Once past the jetty however, the next beach featured a variety of rock coverings as well as thousands of small mussel and clam shells washed up to the shoreline. It was an amazing sight.

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Overall, then, this was a really enjoyable week of beach time. I was glad to be able to get into the water, and glad to also get a beach day with Jolie. Now, I’m looking forward to us getting a bit more beach glass and to seeing her craft a sea glass bowl. I’ll be sure to take a photo and to post it here when this occurs.