Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Other Pebble Beach

By Elliott Joseph

Reprinted from California Living
San Francisco Sunday Examiner
& Chronicle

Photos By Roz Joseph

Copyright 2010 Elliott Joseph

June 2010

Forty-five miles south of San Francisco, on Route 1, there is a small cove known as Pebble Beach. This fragile natural gem is not to be confused with the glamorous broad white sandy beach at Carmel further south, or the much publicized Pebble Beach Golf Course near it, along the beautiful 17-Mile Drive on Monterey Peninsula. Most people do think of the manicured greens and rolling fairways of the championship golf course when they hear the name Pebble Beach. That Pebble Beach is where celebrities and some others play, a better organized and more highly developed world.
There are no celebrities, however, on my little Pebble Beach. What local fame it has is due to the unique beauty of the hundreds of thousands of little pebbles that the sea cuts out of the accommodating rock, as it crashes and swirls and surges in the headstrong way of the waters of northern California.
The colors of these lovely stones, which the relentless surf polishes to virtual jewels, are altogether bewitching. I never fail to drop to my knees or sit among my pebbles when I'm there, and hold them in my hands, letting them fall between my fingers, enjoying the richness and sensual pleasure of their touch.
As the surf recedes over their glistening perfection it seems to say, "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" as though it does not want the rest of the world to know of its treasure. To me the pebbles are part of an organism, and the beach seems to cry out in pain when the pebbles are taken away in the pockets or the plastic bags, or as I recently witnessed, in the pails of their misguided or unthinking admirers.
The number of stones had been dwindling over the years as so many visitors failed to resist temptation. There used to be a sign at the entrance to the beach asking that you do not take any pebbles away with you. But for a while, mysteriously, the sign was missing from its post. Until it was replaced, the silent rape went on without admonishment.
Ironically, the pebbles distract the plunderers from the exceptional tidepools that border the beach at its southern end. Situated amidst a geological fantasy of color and shape -- a moonscape in miniature, a simulated aerial view of the canyons, valleys, buttes and mountain ranges of the great American southwest -- the tidepooles contain rich worlds of tiny sea life.
When the tide is out this variegated universe is stunningly revealed in the canals and caves of the slippery rock. As the sea churns and swells at a safe distance, the temporarily still waters of the tidepools can be seen teeming with little creatures.
In their zeal to take the pebbles, the plunderers are less moved to bother the strange tidepool animals, which go on living their curious lives, oblivious to the threat of their existence.
Perhaps it is a sacrificial function that the pebbles of Pebble Beach perform, protecting the innocent snails and sea urchins from an untimely death. But how long will their own number, like the heroic citizen-soldiers of a bygone civilization, be sufficient to stand guard?

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Do you have a special beach?