Skip to main content

Betsy Block


Beach, part two

Beach, part two

Huts like this one, which E and BD built, dot the beach. Maybe they could become day prisons for beach despoilers.

BD and I spent a weekend without the kids in northern Mass. We had been smitten by the beach at the local nature preserve; during the 48 hours we spent nearby, we visited it four separate times. On our last trip out there, on the morning of our departure, we sat near a family of four: two grandparents, a mom and her boy. Soon after we'd leaned back and happily dug our toes into the sand, the mother and her son took out sandwiches and started eating them. A gull approached, and the boy started throwing food to the bird. His mother didn't stop him.

I was already feeling a little incensed - the preserve is very strict about not feeding the wildlife - when this woman lit a cigarette, then used the beach as her ashtray. On our way out of the park, I told the guard at the front station what I'd seen. I hoped they'd gotten to her.

I figured this was unusual and that most people who come here understand what a precious resource this place is and behave accordingly. But the next weekend, we returned with the kids. We were exploring a tidal pool when I saw BD jerk his head toward the water.

"What's up with that?" he muttered so the kids wouldn't hear.

I followed his eyes and saw a woman covered more by tattoos than she was by nylon. She was sitting on a rock, back arched, head tilted back, while a photographer snapped away. We surreptitiously pointed the kids in the other direction (though later the kids did see her - "I think it's sad," said Zen master E) and went back to our chairs.

That was when the family with five girls came onto the beach, naturally setting up right next to us. One of them got out some chips. A seagull approached. When the girl saw the bird, she cowered behind her mother. While I couldn't hear them talking, I could see that soon she felt reassured because she came out of hiding. She threw the bird some Fritos. Her mother didn't stop her. Next the girl started shooing the gull away with her foot, stomping the ground and making noise. She looked mad and powerful.

She reminded me of a bully who starts off afraid but then comes back swinging, because she can. Because somehow it makes her feel better, if only for a little while.

1 liter water, sipped slowly over a couple of hours, to flush out any lingering bad feelings. Make sure it's pure.