When I first moved to this island more than a year ago, I was walking my dog on a shingle beach near my house. A man came out and asked me if I was looking for sea glass. I wasn’t, but he told me that as a child he and his friends would go to that same beach and smash bottles against the rocks for fun. “Forty years later,” he said, “people collect all the pieces of the bottles we broke.”
Sea glass comes in as many colors as, well, glass does. Brown, clear, green, purple, red, blue (red and blue are considered the rarest colors). Our minds may rebel against it, but many years ago in seaside communities all over the world, people used the beaches and oceans as a trash dump. The tides, the sand, and the rocks worked their magic on the glass and turned all those broken bottles into the sea glass that now fill countless glass jars, lamps, and even made in to jewelry.
People love to collect sea glass for all sorts of reasons: crafts or perhaps memories of a vacation. My friend has been collecting for years hoping to make a backsplash for her kitchen made entirely of man’s trash made beautiful by the ocean’s unrelenting tides.
Yesterday I was walking with my friend (the one with dreams of a sea glass back splash) on one of the few sand beaches on this island, looking for the elusive sea glass. We weren’t finding much, and my friend turned to me and said, “One day there won’t be anymore sea glass.”
I must have looked confused because she explained that she used to find it scattered all over the beach, ” a dime a dozen,” she said.
I thought about it and asked her if that was necessarily such a bad thing, after all, sea glass means people are still throwing their trash into the oceans and smashing bottles on beaches.
Do I think sea glass is an “endangered species”? Considering human behavior, my initial thought was a resounding “NO”. There will always be people who think nothing of tossing their junk on to beaches and roadsides.
As I continued down the sandy beach with its stunning views of the bay, I picked up a discarded soda bottle, felt the plastic beneath my fingers, and thought about it. Years ago, when people discarded their glass bottles, the ocean threw back jewels. But with nearly everything made of plastic, the ocean will remind us for eternity that she is not a garbage dump.