On Beachcombing: Moral Questions, Unexpected Treasures, and Transformation

Oct 23, 2013

Things washed up or left behind on the beach raise questions of ownership.
Credit Robert Finch

A little over a month ago I was walking the outer beach and there, just north of one of the public beach accesses, I came upon a beach volleyball net, supported by two pressure-treated 12-foot 4x4s, Flung over the net was the bottom half of a flowered bikini. The net had probably been there all summer. It was now several weeks after Labor Day, most of the summer people were gone, and there was no sign that the net was still being used. I was tempted, but decided to wait a while to see if the owner, or owners, would come to reclaim it.      

Last week I returned to the site to find the volleyball net still there, though the bikini was gone. It seemed clear to me that the structure now qualified as “wreckage,” so I decided to salvage it. 

When I arrived home I unloaded the posts and the net, feeling satisfied with my haul. Then I began thinking what I might do with it. I first considered using the posts to expand our fenced-in dog yard. On the other hand, I remembered Kathy saying how much she liked playing badminton. Perhaps it would be appropriate to have it serve as a badminton court, a variation on its original use. In the end, though, utility won out and I used the posts to construct a new compost bin for our garden. What once provided recreation on a summer’s beach now holds last summer’s garden herbage, and this fall’s kitchen garbage, and over the winter it will perform its composting alchemy to grow next summer’s peas, strawberries, kale, basil, tomatoes, and other vegetables and fruits. The beach is, if nothing else, a place of transformation.