April 03, 2016

Treasures on the Beach

Empty beaches

 First beach days are always special. It makes me feel like I am on a holiday, especially after a cold, windy and rainy stay in Holland this week. What a luxury to be able to get in a car, drive some 20 minutes down south (if you’re lucky with the traffic), and stop by one of the many beach clubs (none of whom, by the way, have officially opened their doors) and sit in the sun and warm sand. Just like on holidays.
It’s probably because Lebanese are so used to having this at their front door, that they do not go to the beach this early, but had this been Holland, all 17 million Dutchies would have been on the beach this weekend. Traffic jams miles and miles long. But it is not. And as such, we were practically the only ones at the beach. Two other families also came out to enjoy the sun and the sea. What joy.
And so I lay and watched the Mediterranean Sea. Quite a special sea, this ‘middle’ sea. Some 2.5 million square kilometers of water, stuck between 3 continents and bordered by some 20 countries (a bit more than that), quite a few who experience (Syria, Israel), or have recently experienced serious upheaval or even war (Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Tunis, Bosnia, Croatia). For a while this sea became landlocked, and then evaporated, leaving huge salt deposits behind (we’re talking 6 million years ago). And then some 5 million years ago, it suddenly filled again in a matter of two years, when the water came pouring in through a breach what is now the Strait of Gibraltar. I think I should donate the requested $2 donation to Wikipedia; what would I do without it?
Puffer fish
You find lots of treasures on the beach. Such as a (very dead) puffer fish. They’re poisonous to eat, and are not indigenous to the Mediterranean. The Suez Canal opened in 1869 a passage to the Red Sea through which not only ships sail, but also fish swim. Apparently some 900 alien marine species have been spotted in the past decades, according to this article. The puffer fish contains a neurotoxin called Tetrodotoxin which can be deadly. The Japanese think the fish is a delicacy, but it does require careful preparation.  It has killed some 7 Lebanese, according to the Daily Star. I find news items like this always quite ironic. You survive 15 years of civil war, Israeli bombings and car bombs, only to die eating a poisonous fish.
Beach Glass

Beach glass, or sea glass, is another treasure. I had been collecting this stuff for years, until my house needed serious de-cluttering.  I still pick it up, but have enough self-discipline these days to leave it behind at the end of the day. Blue is my favorite color, a color that is not common. Green and brown are common colors here in Lebanon. There is a whole science behind beach glass, and there is even a museum with a massive beach glass collection. It is so popular that they make it artificially in the States and sell it. Did you know there is a North American Sea Glass Association? Imagine. But that just proves it; is a treasure.
Red pebbles

Round and colored pebbles are also interesting to gather. There’s nothing odd about it, it’s a universal thing, collecting these things on the beach. My favorite ones are the red colors, or bright white, indicating different minerals, and the banded (striped) rocks. Pebbles with striped markings still get dragged home. The white lines are veins of quartz. Some people make art with them. Stones with holes are also a collector’s item. Not sure how those holes get there. Some say they’re ancient wormholes, that dug through the sand, and have since eroded. Some say they’re made by piddocks. Whatever it is, those go home as well.
Banded pebbles
I fear the day I ever have to move house. I am afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle it. The amount of colored beach glass, nicely shaped wooden stick, pine cones, unusual pebbles, odd stones, beautiful shells, fossils and blue shards would need a container in itself.
Here's one family member who takes after her mom; gathering junk and taking pictures (or making them, in my case)
There are more treasures on the beach. But enough for today.


Fadi said...

Wow. Loved, loved, loved this post, the information and the pictures.
I aspire to have curiosity and character similar to yours Sietske, thank you for sharing your stories.

Sietske said...

Thank you!!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you're again finding beauty. As difficult as life can be here, we always have to remember the natural beauty and happiness in the everyday. Spring is renewal....