Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 24, 2018

A Clean, Well-Lighted Beach

Part of my continuing consideration of our place in “nature.”

One problem with nature is it’s just so inconvenient. It has bugs, and there’s no air conditioning. Animals crawl right into the tent and drag out our coolers full of carefully packed energy bars and sandwiches, or, if they’re small, curl up in our sleeping bags or shoes. And, to get down to basics, there aren’t nearly enough restrooms.

Consider the next photo, Ruby Beach, Washington. I’ve written about the place before.

Ruby Beach Brad Nixon 1 (640x478)

I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen a more stunning spot on the planet, especially with that J.M.W. Turner sunset blazing away.

I live a couple of miles from the Pacific Ocean in southern California. Ruby Beach is approximately 1,200 miles to the north. I can see this without traveling to another part of the continent:

Deserted Beach Brad Nixon 5480 (640x480)

Even though my nearby beach has sand instead of that uncomfortable shingle at Ruby Beach, both places have their limitations: no snack bar, restrooms or towel rental, and it’s an inconvenient hike to actually get down to the water at either one. Makes one long for the pleasures of the Mediterranean, as here, right in the resort town of Bordighera on Italy’s Ligurian coast …

Bordighera Brad Nixon 6693 (640x410)

… or perhaps you prefer Italy’s Adriatic coast, like here adjacent to busy, historic Fano:

Fano Italy beach 035 Brad Nixon (640x417)

Same basic elements: sand, sun, water, stunning vista, PLUS beach chairs, umbrellas, and there are restaurants and restrooms nearby, in both cases. Ah, la dolce vita, certamente.

Humans flock to beaches. So do insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, crustaceans and amphibians in untold millions. There are scientifically demonstrable reasons that wild creatures go to beaches, typically having to do with food, although breeding is in there, too. Humans go to beaches for food and breeding, too, perhaps not in exactly the same context or to the same degree. As Melville said, we are all water-gazers, and he meant everywhere, because he opens Moby-Dick with throngs of city-dwellers looking out at the East (or maybe it’s the Hudson) River in New York City, not at the vast ocean, as here in Oregon:

Oregon beach Brad Nixon 1874 (640x480)

Why? What do we get from the experience, other than sunburn, insect bites, jellyfish stings and sand in our shoes? Nice photographs? That’s a benefit, but certainly not the chief reason. Some of us go specifically hoping to see the birds, mammals, reptiles, crustaceans, etc., for purposes scientific or touristic.

Some activities require beaches or at least beach-like conditions. Malibu and Waikiki! Surfing! Volleyball! Young, attractive people wearing few clothes! Everyone is going there this year! Lots of reasons. Here’s Malibu, although away from the legendary surfing point break.

Malibu beach Brad Nixon 3173 (640x397)

We don’t really need to explain why we’re going to the beach, because it’s such an elemental part of our natures. The beach is — if anything is — sui generis, and we need no justification. We run, walk, or just lie down — fully clothed or un-. We smell the air, listen to the surf on sand, pebbles or boulders. And we gawk, look, gaze, as here, in Oregon.

Oregon coast Brad Nixon 0235 (640x480)

Is there a writer who hasn’t set a poem, story or scene on a beach? If one never saw a beach of any sort, the idea would still be fixed in mind from the beginning of written literature. Gilgamesh and Inkidu go to the edge of the water to “break the things of stone” (whatever they were). Homer presaged all the great battles of history by placing his on the beach where the Achaeans came ashore to besiege Troy, then followed Odysseus, who kept getting cast up on beaches, not always happily. Ah, then through Robinson Crusoe to those Victorians — Tennyson, Swinburne and Arnold — and on into the 20th Century with Camus and Shute and … we humans know beaches.

I like to think that we’re not going to the beach — or looking at photos or reading about it — to find nature so much as we’re responding to some aspect of our own inner nature.

Storm-wracked or sun-kissed, rockbound or sand-strewn, urban or wild, the beach calls us. Even beaches like the ones along Santa Monica Bay, the western edge of Los Angeles, lined by apartment buildings, groomed by large machines and featuring a paved walkway and street lights not far away beckon with the same irresistible pull.

Redondo Beach Brad Nixon (640x478)

A clean, well-lighted beach? As much as I treasure wild places — including remote beaches — I don’t disdain the experience of a city beach because — in some elemental way — its essential nature is still there. I will argue against developing a beach into a resort or building along a pristine stretch of sand, but humans have already built their cities beside beaches, after all: Copacabana, Barceloneta or Hietaniemi (Helsinki has beaches, plural). We’re drawn that way.

What I think it comes down to is this — which is my overriding theme as I consider humans and nature: We’re animals, and just as much a part of nature as any other beast. We don’t have to go anywhere to be part of nature; we’re already here. We simply have to recognize what’s already in us. We should treasure wild places, untrammeled mountains, lakes and forests all the more because they’re precious and threatened, but we’re threatened, too. Perhaps it’s at the beach that we make an immediate connection with how fragile we and all life are.

Ruby Beach Brad Nixon 7717 (640x476)

© Brad Nixon 2018


  1. Exactly. The sea calls, calls, and calls me always, even without a beach. Great post, Brad, and beautiful romantic pictures.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Victor. It’s one thing that connects all of us around the world. Important to recognize our commonalities when so much conspires to divide us.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Love the beach! Also love the gorgeous beach pictures!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! My pleasure to share. I’ve been to YOUR beach: Indiana Sand Dunes. AND spent a couple of happy days on Indiana Beach at Lake Shafer, even closer to you. That was a long, long time ago, some time before I was 10. The big old amusement park on the shore of the lake was still going strong. That may actually be my first-ever memory of being on a beach.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Cool. Indiana Beach is still going strong. It’s switched management a few times, but it’s a nice area. Great campgrounds, etc. right around it.

        It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the Dunes, but loved them when I was there. There’s been a pretty big fight going on in that area. Some people want to develop the area commercially, other people want to keep it natural.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fight the bastards. Tell ’em to go develop Gary. Plenty of old infrastructure there. Leave the dunes alone. That’s crazy. Thanks for the news about Indiana Beach.

        Liked by 3 people

      • You’re welcome and I’m with you.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Fortunately, we have on this planet a rare and unique species known as rich people. Rich people are very fond of beach front property. They like to buy it, or illegally cordon off large swaths of public beach property, and keep it for themselves. This serves a valuable conservation purpose as it keeps the general public from walking upon, trampling, or otherwise damaging, beach property. So, in fact, it is quite likely that only the rich know how truly to appreciate beaches. But at least the rest of us can look at pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bitter words. At least in California, among many other places, you can’t own the beach. That doesn’t mean property owners don’t try to block public access, often going to extremes, but it’s not legal. It IS rather startling to go places where the beach does become private property.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment. I enjoy hearing from readers.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: