"The Fourth of July" [Sunday, Jul. 24, 2005, 2:52 pm]
I wrote this a little while ago - it's based on true events, but I don't know how much sense it will make to others.
The beach is crowded. The extensive, sandy shoreline is heavily populated with those who have decided to make the best of a day off from work. There are families with children toting their bright plastic pails and shovels, and fathers lugging enormous coolers filled with food and soda. There are groups of teenagers with surf boards, boom boxes, and footballs. There are young sunbathing lovers, and older couples with portable screen tents to keep the sand off them, and bright, sturdy beach chairs to keep themselves off the sand.
Sometimes there is interaction - a few people jumping waves, and children making sand castles. But perhaps to some - the sunbathing woman with one arm across her eyes, and the old man in his chair who seems to be staring ahead into the pale horizon - the beach offers an environment in which they can be completely surrounded by people, and yet not notice it like they would elsewhere.
I am tempted to lay my towel down in an open spot, but decide to drift instead. I gradually leave the masses behind, and climb to the highest rocky point, where the wind is strongest. Others are climbing as well, and some are only sitting, gazing out at the ocean. All I want to do is photograph the scenery, and create a record for the future, when things are different.
It is Independence Day here in America. Independence from what? From tyranny? From the British? From a government that does not represent the common man? Surely we have all debated what it is we are celebrating. To the apathetic we are celebrating nothing; to the thrill-seeker it does not matter, as long as the celebration is long and loud; to the patriot we are celebrating the political independence gained in 1776; to the pessimist our country is in an irreversible mess anyway; to the optimist we have every right to celebrate; to the cynic we do not; to the realist there are problems on every level, but good in each as well. And yet, no two will have the exact same opinion of this celebration, just as no two will spend their time at the beach doing and thinking the same things.
I photograph a seagull in mid-flight - as annoying as they are, I cannot ignore these birds. I wonder often what it would be like to be one of them. To not even know the meaning of the word 'politics' - to have nothing to fight over but old crusts of bread. But with higher knowledge comes the higher responsibility: democracy, tyranny, representative government. They affect us all, but do we all affect them? I see a lone kayaker out in the middle of the water, paddling steadily towards who knows where. Can any of us truly make it alone? Even the miniscule man surrounded by the ocean must be noticed by some.
I realize I have been staring blankly and thinking for the longest time. People sitting around me have come and gone. And so I get up, and walk back along the beach. I see an abandoned sand castle, down in the wet-sanded area. I photograph it as I admire its intricate details and sturdy design. Why would someone with such artistic talent spend so much time building something that will only wash away? In a few hours, it will be gone, and no one on earth will care.
I decide to leave. I drop my camera and unused towel on the passenger seat, and drive away with my windows closed, wondering if I was the only one who saw the kayaker.
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009