Friday August 09, 2013 | 11:10 AM
Posted by Harold Johnson

I chose “Undercurrents” for this blog’s name because it fits so many themes. There really are undercurrents connecting the ocean to us, and us to it -- and us to each other -- in unexpected ways.

I ran into a great example of that just the other day.

First thing in the morning, I was playing a fun little time-waster phone app. Build a shop, stock the shop, watch computer “customers” buy stuff, and visit other real-life people who have set up their own shops.

One of my small group of “neighbors” happens to live on the coast north of Boston.

(Photo public domain, photographer “Daderot”)

So my neighbor in this game is a beach- and nature-lover as well, and we’ve had a few nice chats. The topic of writing came up, and I mentioned my beach work and the blog.

It turns out that she, too, will take a trash bag to the beach and pick up what other people have left behind! That was so cool to hear. An unexpected connection with a fellow beachcomber. Made through a game that I never expected to play & expected even less to like!

Life is like that.

I talked once with a Mainer whose beach was cleaner than usual one day. On her drive back home, she found a man wandering down the lane picking up litter along the roadside. That roadside’s gullies drain to the ocean -- and to her beach. Because of the work this kindred spirit had been doing, she had less garbage to deal with, and more time to enjoy the beauty of the place.

“The Tuft of Flowers” is a remarkable short poem by Robert Frost, composed early in his career, 1915. It tells of a hay-turner working alone in a field mid-day. He stumbles on a beautiful tuft of flowers preserved by the lone field cutter who had been there hours before. It’s a gorgeous poem and deserves to be read in full -- you can find it here ( But at the end it contains the lines:

            ‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart,
            ‘Whether they work together or apart.’

It can be lonely sometimes, caring deeply about something. You can feel misunderstood, or that your efforts don’t matter, or that nobody else cares.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

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About the Author

Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.

Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.

Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.

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April 2014

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December 2013

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October 2013

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January 2013

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