Tag Archives: Least Terns

Footfalls

“Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

About the brokerage business my uncle Mike, who was an account executive for a big brokerage house, once opined:  “When you’re done….[All you have are] footprints in the sand.”  I guess we could all say that about our lives, most of us, anyway.  Ultimately, what we have done will be inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, or won’t it? 

I am very lucky to live by the sea and to belong to a club where one can swim and pitch an umbrella at the beach for the day. On gorgeous sunny days, such as this past Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the view was quite spectacular–one of wispy cirrus clouds, motionless against a bright blue backdrop, as if they were brushed in by a great master, along with blue green waves rolling gently onto a soft, white sandy shore. As I stare out at the serene view on days like this, I count my multitude of blessings, perhaps just a bit more than usual. So grateful to God am I for directing me here and so very grateful for the way He has arranged the day. A small thing, this lovely isle of serenity. 

Though frightfully hot in the midday sun, I resolved–and yes, that is the right word–to walk down to the water from the upper decks of the club. You see–I had had shoulder surgery on my left shoulder to repair a torn rotator cuff and exercise in any form is literally the order of the day.  Huffing and puffing as a went, I cheerfully greeted many a mother and child, many a lone boardwalk stroller. (I just have to get back into shape.) Passing the two young beach chair minders, definitely no more than 21, I joked with them about the tough job they had, “Beautiful day, beautiful women,” and perhaps “A few beers tonight after work to help you deal with the stress.” What a struggle! How I remember and long for those halcyon days….Thin as a rail, fit and sailing every chance I got.  No beer of course, not a drop! 😉 I do, however, remember this jingle: “Surprise people, serve Michelob®.”

Having painted you a picture of this past Saturday’s walk, I would like to mention one small detail, one small detail which has irritated me ever since I first started noticing it–much like the imprint of a small pebble in one’s sneaker on a long beach walk. Much like the litter left on some of the beaches around our great country at the end of a fine summer’s day, I think it says much about the way we think of or don’t think of our fellow travelers. I guess I notice this behavior because there have been times when I have walked down to the water using a cane or a walking stick in my left hand, times when, were I to trip over carelessly placed flip-flops, sneakers or shoes, I might have fallen and injured my shoulder or worse.

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Photo credit: Narin Nonthamand/Shutterstock

Imagine two dozen or more haphazardly strewn about….

 Saturday morning or afternoon Memorial Day weekend, the official or unofficial start of the summer season, or on any Saturday, Sunday, or even weekday during the summer one is apt to find at least a score or more of flip-flops haphazardly discarded at what people naturally think is the end of the walk.  I’m guessing here: it might be an extra five or 10 feet, but hey, I like to walk until the end in more ways than one.  Besides there is a vertical stop erected there to keep walkers from walking off the end of the walk, and it’s a great place to rest and stretch, or pray, activities in which I always engage before continuing on or returning to the house. 

Lest I seem like a curmudgeon, I can imagine the thrill of the children–many of whom are seeing the beach and the ocean for the first time that season, or for the first time ever. As boy eagerly anticipating the first trip to Point O’Woods in the early spring, I felt similar emotions upon first smelling the salt air, and once we arrived, first spying the beach over the top of the stile. I can imagine the parents trying vainly to restrain their children somewhat while they survey the sand for space, for hazards such rip currents or for obstacles such as flotsam and jetsam.   Everyone it seems, regardless of age, removes his or her flip-flops, sneakers or shoes–hurriedly sweeping them out of the way–before hitting the beach, the younger ones leaping joyously onto the sand. I understand; I really do. When I was a young boy, just for fun from time to time, I merrily jumped into it off the stile about four steps up. 

I wish–perhaps I am a curmudgeon–that when people who frequent the beach in front of the club to which I belong leave their footwear on the boardwalk that they would line it up along the edge on one side or the other. Is it folly to suggest that one ought to think that one is not alone? I have even suggested that the club paint pairs of shoe outlines–perhaps in bright colors along the edges to serve as a guide. I have asked but to no avail.  Doing so would eliminate a tripping hazard and enable the full use of the boardwalk.  Speaking of those boardwalks….

As a full time resident, over the course of the past eight years, I think I’ve seen at least five boardwalks wash out, shortened by the ever shoreward march of the waves during a hard blow from the southwest. As I tell strangers, it’s not the hurricanes that do the most damage, but the steady, relentless pounding of the winds and the waves from the southwest or from the northeast. Depending on the prevailing winds that season, the season being the whole year, you get the building or erosion of the beach on one side or the other of the point that forms Cape Fear. Thankfully, though shorter every year, these boardwalks are replaced in time for each season with great thought and care as to where they should run, so as to not disturb the nesting least terns.  As a thoughtful person (I pride myself as such), maybe I should declare myself an endangered species? Before you say I am making fun of these creatures, I love these little birds and have endorsed their protection as a life member of the Nature Conservancy.

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Photo credit: Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock

So there you have it: my inconsequential vignette about Memorial Day. Where one places one’s flip-flops on the boardwalk assuredly won’t change the course of human history, but it might change mine–or someone else’s– if I were to fall as a result of tripping over one haphazardly placed pair or a pile of them and re-injure my left shoulder.  “What a trivial complaint!” I am sure you are saying, but I think, as I run through my childhood memories, that I don’t remember the routine thoughtlessness of people when it came to little things like leaving flip-flops and other tripping hazards in another’s path.  Should I then be surprised if legions of Americans don’t take time to reflect upon the true meaning of the Memorial Day? 

Sandman

(Photo credit at top of page-Footprints: Ksenia Lev/Shutterstock)