sea glass

17 09 2010

It’s always a good way to start the day when, as you’re rolling out of bed, your boyfriend delivers Starbucks and a cinnamon roll as if on cue.   NOT a good way to start the day when the creme brulee macchiato is meant for you to get your butt in gear; you have to leave in 10 minutes because you need to take your boyfriend back to the base.  To be fair, I did this to myself.  Not the  him leaving again thing, but the driving to the base at 9 am thing.  I’ve needed to put my car in the shop for a while now.  Better that I drop him off and use his car as my “rental” rather than his car sit on base for a few weeks while he’s gone and me continue to put off the car maintenance, right?  Somewhere between the espresso and the rushing, I realized I was headed to one of my favorite spots on Okinawa.  Time to get ready.

Let’s paint the picture shall we?  Here it is 9:15 am.  My hair is in the same braid it was in the night before, I’m wearing a brown polka dotted bikini, I’ve got a flight suit thrown over one shoulder.  In one hand my coffee, in the other my beach combing bag.  I’m holding a backpack full of god knows what kind of Army gear….wait.  Did I just say beach combing bag?  Indeed my friends, indeed.  I have become THAT lady.

Why did I need a beach combing bag at 9:15 am?  On a Monday?  Or at all to be fair?  Well let me explain before you judge any further.

Dropping off your boyfriend at the airport sucks.  Dropping him off at a base sucks even more.  I was going to be sad and I knew it.  I knew I would be in need of something to cheer me up.  Thankfully, Torii Station is home to Torii Beach, one of the best places on the island to search for and find sea glass.

I was intrigued (and hooked) the first time I saw it.  My friend that I was with kept yelling back, “Be careful!  There’s a TON of glass around here!”  Little did she know (until our other friend explained to us) that this is actually a treasure of sorts.

Sea glass is formed when glass bottles tumble around in the ocean for years, decades even.  The bottles eventually break apart and get rolled around in the waves, knocked against rocks, sand, and the ocean floor.  The edges of the glass are rounded because of all of this clambering about and the actual face of the glass is usually frosted.  The salt water eats away at the coating on the outside of the bottle giving it a rough texture.  A lot of sea glass is formed because people throw their glass bottles overboard on cruises, fishing trips, etc.  Sea glass in this area is thought to have come from ships that were sunk in the war, GI’s throwing empty medicine bottles in the ocean out of frustration, things of that nature.  More war, less tourist.  Sea glass in general is becoming quite the collector’s item now that so many things come in plastic bottles rather than the colorful glass of yesteryear (I’ve always wanted to work that word into a story!) as well as the push for recycling.  Who knew that my liberal tendencies would pay off in way of a hobby someday?

The most common colors of sea glass are brown and white.  Amber green is a little more rare and then you have cobalt blue.  After that comes ice blue, red, purple, and orange.  These are the rarest of the rare colors of sea glass.  A pair of earrings made out of red seaglass the size of a pea go for $200.  Here in Okinawa we find a LOT pieces from brown, amber green and clear bottles.  Most medicines were kept in ice blue bottles and a lot of booze in the green and brown.  In one of the pictures, you can see part of the Coke-Cola symbol written out in cursive on a white piece of glass.

Still, this doesn’t explain the beach combing bag, I’m getting there.

Searching the island for sea glass is the most peaceful, relaxing thing I can imagine doing on a lazy morning.  It’s calming, and trust me, when you drop your boyfriend off for trip after trip, you need some calm in your life.  So I comb the beach for pieces of sea glass.  I walk up and down the same stretch of beach, 2, 3, 4 times or until the sun does me in.  I’m spoiled in Okinawa, particularly at Torii Beach.  There’s so much of the stuff that I can literally pick and choose which pieces I want to pick up and put in my bag (a ha!  There it is, the bag!)  and which I can leave behind.  That’s unheard of most places in the world.  Most places, you pick up every piece you find no matter the shape, color, or size.  Here, it’s easy to take for granted.  It’s fun too, if you go early enough in the morning, to watch the crabs dig their daily holes and watch the tiny shells crawling roughly across the sand with their little beings inside.  You get to pick up and examine the pieces, deciding if they would be good for your collection or for one you want to send back home.  If they are even worthy of being deemed true sea glass or if they need a few more years in the water (these pieces almost always get thrown in the ocean).

I cherish the mornings I get to do this.  When I am literally the only person I can see on the beach.  When I’m staring down between my toes trying to figure out to start left or to start right or if I should just sit and gaze out at the water for a few minutes.  I’m so interested in the stories of the bottles.  I wish they could tell me who threw them over, was it is rage or good humor or drunkenness.  Where did it break apart?  How long has it been here?

Something else I’ve started collecting with the glass is pieces of pottery I find.  A lot of this pottery is from dishes of cruise ships or from the war.  The island was completely blown to hell and stuff landed everywhere, namely, the ocean.  It’s neat to find pieces you think might be from the same set or that might be from some old Okinawans home.  If only THOSE pieces could talk….

Anyway, that’s all for this one.  While it’s not as exciting or entertaining as the other nonsense I get into, it’s pretty fabulous for me.  And see?  For those of you who might be worried my adventuring has taken a backseat to my new found love interest, you should be glad to know I’m still doing stuff for myself, too.  One of my friend’s husbands thinks it’s completely ridiculous that I love collecting sea glass and you might too.  That’s fine, to each his/her own.  But when your significant other starts wanting the stuff because they read this blog and see the pictures, don’t come around these parts asking for help.