I spent most mornings last summer photographing and then picking up trash on Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, Massachusetts. I created these plates with my Cape Cod photos after thinking about the amount of garbage floating in the world’s oceans.
I didn’t photograph the paper plates with ketchup/mustard smeared on them for obvious aesthetic reasons. Trust me, there were a lot of them almost every day. I provided a link below to one of my beach garbage posts from last summer.
I want to be more deliberate (not radical, just mindful) about garbage and the packaging I choose. Using these plates for a long time instead of plastic seems like an easy switch.
Hey, friends & family the plates will be in the garage ready for your use. Just shoot me a text and grab them on your way to the beach.
This morning a man in his 60s walked past me and I pointed the spiderwebs out to him. To me they would’ve been really hard to miss, and yet he hadn’t noticed. He was so struck by their beauty and quickly started taking pictures. He told me that he couldn’t wait to show the photos to his wife. He thanked me for pointing them out to him and walked over the boardwalk.
As I walked up the hill I passed another man, about the same age walking two little dogs. I said hello and mentioned that if he’s heading toward the boardwalk there are spiderwebs everywhere and they are so remarkable. He barely looked up and said one word to me, “disgusting”.
I thought about the stark differences of these two men. They were about the same age and visiting or living in the same area. I’m not going to make any assumptions here—not publicly anyway. However, if intellectual curiosity is a sign of open-mindedness, well…I know who I would prefer to hang out with if given the choice.
“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” ― E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web
A few Saturday mornings ago while walking down the hill to the Cape Cod Bay, my daughter, Willa told me that she had never seen a coyote. She’s traveled to South Dakota at least once a year her whole life to visit my family and I was surprised. We stepped on the beach before sunrise and the very first thing I noticed was a coyote in the shadows walking the shoreline. The shape was haunting, and instantly familiar.
“In Plains Indian stories, Coyote nearly always takes the shape of a man. He is clever but reckless and is constantly getting himself and the people around him into trouble with his socially inappropriate behavior like greed, boastfulness, lying, and chasing women…
Growing up in South Dakota I frequently heard coyotes howling outside my bedroom’s eastern-facing window that overlooked acres of the uninterrupted prairie where my horse, Honey Bear lived.
Like the mystery of fog and the way it makes me feel, coyotes also hold a similar sacred space. They are a tether to the wide-open plains where I grew up and the inner wildness instilled by the freedom I was granted to roam that spacious landscape. Coyotes, I’m now realizing are part of my interior geography.
In Native American storytelling, the coyote plays a crucial role. Interestingly enough though, the coyote is seen quite differently from nation to nation, region to region. The familiar thread is that the coyote is generally viewed as a trickster meant to serve as a example of traits that don’t always serve the community. The flip side though is that the coyote’s cleverness can often get them out of certain pickles and predicaments.
When I got out of college, I wanted an adventure. In September of 1988, I went to Auckland, New Zealand to volunteer in the public relations department for a non-denominational radio station, Rhema. While I was there an American man who claimed to be a prophet arranged a visit. I don’t remember his name. He wanted to pray with us all right away when he arrived. I was the only American on staff.
He gathered everyone in a circle, my hair stood up on my neck and arms. I was so certain he was a fake. He singled me out and said, “come here, Dakota, please join us”. I said “no” without any explanation. My colleagues were surprised, but not pushy and let me hang back. Kiwi’s are wonderfully respectful and polite. I looked up while they prayed and watched his body language closely. He opened his eyes to look at me. I didn’t blink.
Of course, the American Prophet wanted the only other American to lend authenticity to him and help advance his narrative. He was seeking, as many before and after him, donations of course, and a larger platform to spread his message about what those donations could do for his personal cause and humanity.
$ I grew up in a household with Tammy Faye and Jim Baker on in the morning. I saw the tricks used to get donations, create false narratives, and get people hooked into the drug of magical thinking—a high that is never ever enough.
As a 22-year-old, I knew that American claiming to be a prophet was a snake oil salesman. I’d been in training to spot what’s inauthentic from a very young age, not the message intended by watching the PTL Club. However, an education I now find myself quite grateful for in hindsight.
This story was a pivotal event in my life. This was when I realized that I no longer had to accept the dogma of my childhood. Or at least that I could personally reject what felt inauthentic to me and navigate the world in a way that honored my inner knowing. I also understood, with maybe even more significance that I could handle the fall out if others thought I was wrong.
“Coyote is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans; in others, he is a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance; in still others, he is a comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out. http://www.native-langages.org/plains-coyote.htm
This morning I awakened at five, it was still dark and there was a bit of coastal fog in the air. I sipped my coffee outside and watched the light shift over the bay. In my head, I walked through what I would do if I encountered a coyote on the beach or during the half-mile walk down the hill this morning. I imagined I could be the trickster and outsmart him…magical thinking indeed, Lisa.
I arrived at the beach to pick up garbage and scanned east then west. There was now enough light to see the coyote. I didn’t. I was a little disappointed at first, but then I felt safe to walk the shoreline.
I started noticing the tracks in the sand . I never felt this way before. I had some unfamiliar energy and vigilance.
I thought about my northern Quebec ancestry…fur trappers perhaps? Maybe I should become a wilderness guide or a private investigator? I was heady with possibilities as I walked along.
Then I came upon these sandals and I got a little concerned.
The potential coyote tracks awakened my curiosity today in a way that led to further investigation. I don’t feel tricked. I feel sparked and pretty damn grateful.
PLEASENOTE: I’ve tried to identify online the difference between tracks. I’m well-aware that I could be wrong, but without human prints closeby, it seems to me these are coyote tracks and not those of a large dog. Please let me know. I would like to learn how to easily discern the difference.
macro: intended for use with relatively large quantities or on a large scale
A constant macro view can be exhausting—wasting our time and talents. Most days require us to narrow our focus, take a micro view, and determine where & how we can make the most difference to the people and circumstances we face in our lives.
As my girls head back to their second year of college, the memories of my family’s past summers are making me exceptionally nostalgic this year. Last week I walked Cape Cod’s, Town Neck Beach in Sandwich before heading north to Vermont.
So much flooded back to me…oh, the remarkable nostalgia of middle age.
While admiring the rocks, I got an idea for a photo series and a way I could honor this time of transition.
My memories feel both permanent and somewhat elusive, they can come and go as the tide shifts…just like these rocks do every six hours.
New England Patriot’s recently retired tight end, Rob Gronkowski once remarked, “I just like the beaches in summer, man.”
Last night we had a wild storm—tornado warnings, wind, heaving rain, lightning and thunder. I’ve always loved storms. After it passed, the neighborhood was eerily quiet. My daughter, Willa and I stayed up until things settled down.
I get up really early, always have. I don’t like to get up in the 4s…however, anything after 5:00 works for me. I fed our cat, Karen, headed out to get a coffee at Dunkin’ & listen to my book, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert—sooooo good, and survey the storm damage. We only had leaves covering our deck and a few small branches here and there, nothing major to report.
I ended up at the bottom of the hill at Town Neck Beach. I was the only one in the parking lot at 5:25am…rare actually. Another car pulled up, a man got out and walked onto the beach in the rain. There was just something about him that I found quite intriquing. He didn’t seem sad, but clearly he was in a thoughtful mood. A fisherman wondering about his day perhaps? A visitor seeing his long-planned day at the beach with his young kids thwarted? Or perhaps just a guy on his way to work who likes storms as much as I do.
He took pictures of the stone sculpture that somehow survived the storm. I can’t imagine that someone built it in the dark between 11pm and 5am. It’s design is structurally mighty impressive. Damn.
I waited for him to get into his car, then I got out to get a shot of the sculpture as well. Walking the beach I found myself looking out at the exact spot a friend’s ashes were scattered a few years ago in one of the most sorrowful and stunning moments I’ve ever witnessed in my 52.8 years.
The beach reflected the generous spirit and remarkably unique inner wildness of her this morning. I know she would’ve loved the images in this post and be grateful that I didn’t mention her by name. That was simply not her style.