Dispatch from Ocean Beach.3
Paleontologists relish finding ancient footprints in dried volcanic ash.
Cyber sleuths celebrate when they discover digital fingerprints hiding in the code.
Ocean Beach regulars revel in something far more prosaic — toes and fingers in the soft sand, impressions from the original digital world.
High tide might wash these impressions away, but it doesn’t matter. We don’t come to Ocean Beach to make our mark; There’s a whole City devoted to that.
We come instead because we have questions that it seems only Ocean Beach can answer.
Some find an answer and write it down.
Others stare out to sea. What are they looking for? The Far West or the Far East? Perspective matters.
Some come to fish. Is the ocean a friend or a provider? Can it be both? The shifting sand beneath their feet must offer some kind of answer.
Some come to stroll. Why not go to Golden Gate Park instead? Too green. Too soft. Too quiet. People of the sand like the sound of crashing waves.
Others come to read. Robinson Jeffers wrote that “the tides are in our veins.” Does that mean that the waves break in our heart? Or that Selene — not Helios — holds sway at Ocean Beach? Perhaps the truth can be found somewhere between the periods of wind and fog.
Still others worry less about the waves of emotion than those that beckon. Is it the thrill or the skill? Maybe the camaraderie?
Or maybe the ritual reverence?
Dogs don’t question Ocean Beach as much as feel its freedom. In these moments, is it the humans who need to be similarly unleashed?
Some come with private questions, which they turn into art.
Some like to dig for truth — and a meal. Is it worth the trouble?
Some bring their toys. Is the ocean amused or dismayed?
Some keep a watchful eye. They often question why some beachgoers do what they do.
Is it sea foam or sea phlegm?
Is it abstract art?
Is it light or dark?
Is it safe?
Is it pointless?
Is it really necessary?
Perhaps the point of our questions is that when so much is taken for granted, when everyone pretends to know all the answers, they are asked at all. That’s the oracle of Ocean Beach. It might not tell you what you want to hear. But it has mystery and depth. And as people of the sand, isn’t that what we all want?