“The only problem with looking for sea glass…is that you never look up. you never see the view. you never see the houses or the ocean, because you’re afraid you’ll miss something in the sand.” ~ Anita Shreve
It’s 6:45 in the morning. My best friend and I arrive at one of our favorite local spots – a popular beach on Lake Erie. Well, it’s relatively local. It’s 29 miles away or about a 45 minute drive that I can sometimes make in 30 minutes. We are 2 of a small handful of people who are up and about at this crazy hour on a Saturday morning.
As we walk down the ride away, I notice how calm the lake is. It looks like glass with the exception of a few small ripples coming ashore from the lone boat passing by with a couple fishermen. Since I’ve been coming to this beach years ago, I’ve always seen at least a few waves on this lake, but not today. I’ve never seen this lake so calm. Then again, I’ve never seen the lake at this time of the day.When we get to the water’s edge, we part ways. I head towards the pier and she heads towards the creek.
So why in the world are we at the beach at such an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning?
Imagine that you’re taking a stroll on the beach and something sparkly catches your eye. You bend over to pick it up and admire the simple yet pretty, frosty, little odd shaped gem. You look down and see another piece. A few steps away you find another … and another.
A little while later when you get in your car or get home, you look at all of the sparkly, frosty gems you’ve gathered. Maybe you have a rainbow of colors or maybe you have just a couple different colors.
You have just collected what’s known as beach glass or sea glass.
How did the glass get in the lake?
There are a couple of ways that the glass ended up in the lake then on the beach.
Before the 1960’s, many products came in glass containers. Everything from food to beverages to medicine and everything in between. Also back then, it was a common practice to either bury your garbage in the sand or toss it in the ocean or lake. Since the invention of plastic and less garbage being tossed in the lake, these precious little gems are becoming harder to find.
The exact number is not known, but Lake Erie has had more than 2,000 shipwrecks, all of which probably had bottles, glasses and ceramic dishes on board.
Rumor has it that marbles have also washed ashore. They may have been on ships or thrown into the lake by children playing on the beach or at an amusement park by the lake. They may have also been dumped into the lake by marble manufacturer Akro Agate which was on the Cuyahoga River.
The average depth of Lake Erie is 62 feet. It ranges from about 30 feet deep in the shallowest point and 210 feet at the deepest point. In comparison, Lake Superior is 1,335 feet. This means that the waves on Lake Erie can be incredibly rough – especially during a storm. During a storm, strong winds kick up fairly powerful waves. This combined with the riptide churns the water and tosses the glass around while rubbing it against rocks and sand. This smoothes the rough, jagged edges of the glass and transforms them into a beautiful frosty jewel.
It takes anywhere from 7 – 20 years of being tossed around in this environment for something like a broken bottle to transform from a piece of glass with sharp, jagged edges to a smooth piece with rounded edges.
Beach glass colors span the entire rainbow with many shades of each color in between plus black, brown and white. Some colors, like white, green and brown, are more common than black and red which are very rare.
These recycled bobbles are collected all over the world. Depending where you live, they are called many different things like sea glass, beach glass, mermaids tears, ocean glass, and trash glass.
Glass found in the ocean is typically called sea glass, while glass on fresh water beaches is called Beach Glass.
There is no real value in these treasures, but they are beautiful and fun to collect.
Back on the beach, I found my thoughts clearing as the sun was rising in the eastern sky. I asked myself why I liked collecting this garbage that Lake Erie polished and spit back out to the beach. Is it because finding these pieces of recycled past is like a scavenger hunt? Is it because I like being up at the crack of an ungodly hour watching the sun rising over the horizon? Could it be because I like playing tag with the waves? Or is it the peaceful calmness and serenity that I feel when I’m here?
My answer? It’s all of the above.
After I’m done looking for that one unique piece by the pier, I head back. I walk with my head down peering into the clear water to my right, then scanning the wet sand and rocks in front of me, then the dry sand and rocks to my left and back again. Every few steps I find a piece, then another, and another, and …
“Buddy! You went past the ride away again!”
I look up and sure enough I did. I was so busy with my eyes looking over every square inch of beach that I hadn’t even noticed the time, the tide going out, the scenery around me, or that I walked past the ride away… again. That’s ok though. I was enjoying the moment as it was happening.
When I catch up to my best friend back at the car, we show off our haul to each other. Today we found a lot. We both found a few big pieces and at least 1 of each color – white, blue, green and brown. I also found a few neat looking rocks and a couple of fossils. We hop in the car, put the windows down and the music up as we head for home. On the ride home, I am acutely aware that I hadn’t eaten breakfast. No matter. This was a great start to the day.
Our lives are filled with so much stuff these days. Between work, children and information coming at us from every direction 24/7. We’re always rushing from here to there and a couple of places in between. I know. I’ve been there. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized what’s important in life. I know that there’s more to life than work and obligations. I missed out on a lot of things because of the obligations I’ve had over the years. I decided last year that I was going to do more of the things I enjoy doing.
In all my years of coming to this beach, I have yet to find a marble. Perhaps one day, when the tide is right, I’ll find a marble sitting on the beach waiting for me to pick it up.
My best friend told me years ago that when we got old that we would walk the beach collecting glass and seashells. I laughed and said, “Yeah right.” Little did I know back then that she was right, except now we’re not old. We’re just older.
Thought for the day: We will always have work and obligations in some form until the day we die. If we want to be happy, healthy people we need to look up from our work, obligations and our electronic devices. See the view. See the houses or the ocean/lake. Don’t be afraid of missing the occasional piece of glass in the sand. There will be more.
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