Today was the first beach cleanup where I witnessed the ocean speak its mind by handing back garbage with each pound of a wave. It was staggering – disappointing – mind-boggling. I am glad I was there to listen.
I asked the universe to guide me to a new beach that I had not visited before, where my cleanup assistance would be needed. I pulled into a small parking lot off of Cabrillo Highway (HWY 1) in Pacifica – which looked like it was for trail access to the beach. I had a feeling if I hiked the paved bike trail, I would eventually land at the beach and I did. It was about a fifteen minute hike along Calera Creek. The trail was well-kept with a flower garden launching it it from the parking lot – no garbage to be found anywhere – not even a cigarette butt! The rushing creek was shrouded in willows – I couldn’t see the water but I sure heard it. I wondered how this creek had so much water when California is in a drought. The very loud croaking frog entertained me. “Dude, I totally hear you but I’m not your girlfriend, I thought!”
Unbeknownst to me at the time, I took the scenic route to Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, when I could have driven down San Marlo Way from Cabrillo Highway and gotten there in minutes. That’s okay, the trail was beautiful… and clean. Little did I know that at the end of the trail, close to the north end of the beach, I would discover a garbage heap that kept growing as the tide rolled in.
Usually, I walk along beaches and find bits of garbage here and there but never have I found a significant pile of chunky debris, hidden behind big boulders at the bottom of the Calera cliffs. Right after I cleaned up the pile and took the first bag-load to the recycling cans at the end of the trail, there was new garbage deposited in the same place by the waves. This happened three times! I filled up my bag, took it to the can and came back to discover new garbage. I stopped picking up garbage once the can was full. This was a first. I shook my head in disbelief.
The waves rejected humans’ garbage and handed it back with each salty wave. The debris was mainly bits of aluminum cans, plastic water and booze bottles, unidentified plastics, rubber, about 20 zip ties of varying sizes and colors, rope, many bunches of monofilament fishing line, straws and three fishing net bags. Other interesting debris were five eyeglass frames, 2 goggles, four shoes, two belts, two combs, shoe parts, cell phone case, fingernail brush and a gardening glove. A closet dump! Since most of the garbage looked quite worn and/or had barnacles attached to it, I am wondering if there is an offshore dump near Pacifica or it was taken by current from a dumpsite further out.
On the way back to my car, I noticed a baby snake on the trail. I took note… a symbol representing the “source of life” in many cultures. I interpret it as, humanity is in in the baby stages of reversing the harm done to life-giving Earth. I think a good place to start is reducing consumption, reusing and recycling and slowing down enough to understand that living is not about the stuff.