beach

Posted by Ellen

It was a while ago, close to fifteen years ago, but I think I remember how to get there: walk down the hill and through the fields of brussels sprouts to the edge of the cliffs above the sea. Follow the clifftops for a mile or so, till a narrow squiggly trail branches off the main track and maneuvers down through a gully in the cliff face. Scramble down to the bottom, and there you are, in the sandy little cove, sharing your beach with the ocean and the sky.

I hope I remember this place right. It seemed memorable for three reasons: the seclusion of the cove, the scenery surrounding the walk to the cove, and the brussels sprouts. The beach is in Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz, California. And for what it's worth, almost all of America's brussels sprouts are grown right there along the Pacific coast of Santa Cruz County, where winters are mild but the fog keeps the summer heat away.

Gotta get back there some time . . . .

Posted by Ellen

 We have all seen pictures of the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico; this is the one that put a catch in my breath today.

Nicole Kesterson of Gulf Shores, Alabama, is snapping a picture at the public beach near Gulf Shores State Park, while blackened surf splashes down onto the sand. Used to be, Gulf Shores and nearby beaches were characterized by what people called "sugar sand"--fine, white, perfect, clean quartz crystalline sand. I've seen tarballs there before--Gulf oil platforms are visible from many parts of the beach--but black waves of crude are something else again.

Picture these gentle little waves roughed up and built into mountains by a hurricane--Atlantic and Gulf waters are warmer this summer than ever before in human history, and hurricanes are the earth's major mechanism for dealing with hot spots of subtropical water. The oil will come crashing inland, obviously, surging for miles to flood uncleanable marshes and swamps. And evidence is accumulating that thanks to BP's massive use of dispersants, oil will also likely be sucked up into the sky; oil vapor will gather in the clouds along with water vapor to rain poison down on us all.

For what it's worth, the good news is that mosquitoes don't do well in oily environments. 

I have spent enough time among geologists to accept that all substantial reservoirs of oil on the planet will eventually be tapped for human use. But what I hear about energy policy in America these days seems completely backwards to me: why aren't we letting the Saudis and the Russians let their wells run dry before we tap into our own precious reserves? Countries with no other source of income or with desperate economic problems have no choice but to sell off all their oil as quickly as possible. We're rich enough to wait for a while, and as the rest of the world's oil disappears, ours becomes more and more valuable. Perhaps eventually it will be worth so much that oil companies will be cautious not to risk spilling a drop.

Or whatever.

Posted by Ellen

To be more precise: at least one mitten came off late in the afternoon of Christmas day when Hank and Al had at it on the bluff above Kettle Cove, on the nearly snowless southern coast of Maine. It wasn't a real fight, just a little sibling rasslery.

Posted by Ellen

The Atlantic coast of Senegal near the mouth of the Gambia River, as perceived by the sensors of the Landsat 7 satellite.

Posted by Ellen

In the summer of 1913, Hazel Reiber winds up for a pitch near the ocean in the big sandlot at Long Beach, Long Island. Her bathing costume looks skimpier than the outfits many women wore back then, but her boots would do just fine for a professional wrestler.

That is a baseball in her right hand, but I'm guessing--hoping--that the person she's throwing to is not swinging a bat. It doesn't look safe for slugging thereabouts.