My recent visit to the Turks and Caicos reminded me yet again of this rhythm. Hurricane Sandy didn't "hit" the islands, but her effects were still there in the changing beaches of North Caicos. Hollywood Beach has been scoured, the high-water line pushed back and big amounts of sand missing beneath exposed tree roots. The beach at Hollywood Hill is nearly gone; it's now impossible to pass by without getting wet feet. And all the sand that was there has traveled east, creating a beach where there used to be just rocks in front of the Habersaat and Jacobs homes.
This is no cause for alarm; it simply is. Through 22 years, Tom and I have watched these beaches change, in turn sandy, rocky, shell-littered, clogged with beach grass, then back to sandy, etc. Change is the only constant when it comes to the seashore.
These observations convinced us to avoid buying and building on the beachfront. And they made me understand the folly of beach replenishment, of developing barrier islands, of basing an economy on shifting sands, of trying to "own" a beach.
By all means, fellow humans, enjoy the beach! Lie on and play in the sand, explore the life of the low tide terrace, fish at the edge and launch your rafts and boats. Just don't expect it to be the same, always. Don't put up structures that you can't afford to lose in a storm, and don't complain when sand becomes rock or vice-versa.
Most people on North Caicos know that the sand that disappears in one storm will be back with the next or the next. A handful of property owners don't get it. One neighbor, I know, will soon be trucking in sand to replenish Hollywood Beach, too impatient to wait for the natural process. I just shake my head and sigh, much as I do for those who rebuild on the Outer Banks or replenish Virginia Beach almost yearly. What a waste of money and effort! What hubris, to think we can force the ocean to our will!
Loss and recovery: It will happen without us. It is the rhythm of the weather, and of life itself.