Monday September 02, 2013 | 10:39 AM
Posted by Harold Johnson

Labor Day marks an end for many beachgoers. For me, it marks a beginning.

In the height of summer, a beach loses itself. It becomes a sea of people.

The umbrellas & blankets & littered bottles & red skin all look the same from place to place. And the character of the place itself fades into the background.

Not that this has to be a bad thing. For many -- especially here in Maine where the warm sun is so fleeting -- a crowded beach is an almost sacred summer ritual!

But when September comes & school starts up & the temperatures drop -- that’s when a beach starts to rediscover itself.

It remembers its shape. Sands sculpted by wave & wind, not churned by carts or shovels or grooming trucks.

It remembers its sound. The rhythm of waves crashing or rippling into the foreshore, the cry of gulls. The sizzle of sand grains, caught in a blustery gust, flitting along the dunes.

It remembers its smell. Gone is the coconut oil, replaced by salt & tang, lingering beach roses, here and there pockets of wrack breaking down & feeding the next generation of ocean life.

I’m thrilled that Maine’s beaches are so popular in summertime. I hope they will be a welcoming place & an economic driver forever. (Which will happen if we learn to take care of the Gulf of Maine and its coastlines.)

But my heart’s at a quiet shore. I love nature’s artistry, unmarred by sandal prints.

I love the low sun casting its long shadows. You never know what its last rays of light will catch.

As the summer crowds leave, with their tans & souvenirs & new friendships & memories, I’m excited for beach season to begin.

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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.

Previous entries

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013


September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

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