When people say they love to walk on the beach, I take their comment literally. Walking on the beach is just walking for them. Walking on the beach is slow and immersive for me, but perhaps walking is the wrong term.
I find myself creeping along, leaning over, turning over everything in sight, dashing out into the water to grab something on a wave. People who just want to walk can find my meandering ways trying. But those who like to go progging know exactly what I’m doing.
The distance walked is unimportant compared to what is found on the beach itself. While something edible is wonderful, it’s the more unusual items, with stories to tell, that are of greatest interest.
Ignoring sand dollars and intact shells, I will immediately gravitate to the mysteries that may be found in a pile of rotting beach wrack (like the picture above). The smell, while offputting to the uninitiated, hints at the goodness to be found within.
The seaweeds, to the average walker may be something slimy to be avoided. For me, I see the swaying green blades of an underwater meadow. In life, the eel grass, I know as Zostera marina, provide shelter for young fish and crabs. In death the tiny, lacy looking bryozoans growing on their surface capture my imagination. So intricate, so complex, so much more interesting than the seal swimming 500 feet off shore.
The pneumatic pods of kelp and their hand-like holdfasts tell of storms and rocky bottoms in deeper waters. Even dead, their rich reds and browns remind me of the deep. Here dwell the larger fish, the predacious sun stars, the algae that on land looks like a mess, but in the deep stand tall, gracefully swaying with the surges.
No, walking on the beach is not walking at all. It’s more like chasing one clue after another, remembering my time swimming underwater.