By Margaret Nitka
SOMETHING IN THIS cloudy, damp morning draws me to Sea Bright beach. I had been neglecting my beach walks in favor of flaming autumn leaves. Now here I am, better late than never, suiting up in sweatshirt, windbreaker, vest, gloves and hat. Good thing, too, as I face the steady beat of a chill northeast wind. As I approach the beach, I find enormous sand barriers pushed up where the pre-Hurricane Irene dunes once were. Several bulldozers work hard to move more sand up against the rock wall all along the beach to the south. They move constantly like big yellow bugs, hurrying back and forth, never resting. To even get to the beach requires climbing up the barrier, confronting a blast of northeast wind and scrambling down toward the ocean. What I find as I survey the beach is a shock.
The angry storms of early fall blasted the beach with their considerable might. Sand is gouged out in one place and piled into vertical impressions of rolling waves in another. All along there is a steep ledge of sharply sculpted sand. I can almost hear the crashing waves that must have beat relentlessly up against it, undermining the beach while the sand dug in and held on. The power of wind and wave is written on the beach in another, more disturbing way. Shards of shells, wood, weeds, small bits of mangled plastic trash, and half buried clamshells are scattered everywhere and jammed deep into the sand. I turn towards the water and find it hard to believe that this is the same ocean. Even in the face of a brisk northeast wind, the waves are winter calm in a small, choppy sea. I find myself fervently wishing our beach a season of favorable winds and gentle currents.