Friday, October 10, 2008

Down by the Sea by Barbara Quinn

When the weather is not too hot, or too cold, I love taking a long walk along the shore. I travel from my place in Bradley Beach north to Asbury Park and then back again. It’s about three miles roundtrip and no matter how many times I walk that walk I enjoy it. Much of the pleasure has to do not only with what passes before my eyes, but with what passes beneath my feet. I am grateful for the physical wooden structure of the boardwalk.

In particular, I like the old wooden boardwalk of Ocean Grove. It’s wobbly, and needs repair, but the feel of those old boards beneath my feet is a joy. The wood gives a natural spring to your step. It’s so easy on the joints. I do need to be careful of holes and raised boards while walking. But that’s fine with me. That soft feel is worth the effort. In summer the boards swell. Now with the cool fall air there are small gaps between them and they emit a different sound when your feet hit them. In winter the brittle boards snap beneath your feet and have much less give to them. Any time of year, when a bike rolls over the boards, an unmistakable sound rumbles toward you. The boardwalk becomes a giant xylophone with two notes.

Some parts of the boardwalk have new man-made material. It’s a pleasant gray color, plastic, too uniform for my taste. And it feels different when you tread on it. There’s no give. It warps in odd ways. Other places, like Bradley Beach, have installed stone pavers along the shore, in place of the old wood. The stones look pretty but boy are they hard on your feet and legs.

There’s an older gentleman in Ocean Grove whose job it is to mark dangerous boards for future repair. He carries a bucket with red paint, and a brush, and he circles the areas that are sticking up, holes, the nails that jut out too far. He walks along slowly studying the boards. What a nice job. And he seems well-suited and dedicated as he thoughtfully makes his way along.

In some communities they are using ipe, a Brazilian wood that is working out well but causing controversy since it comes from the rainforest and needs to be certified to eliminate protests over its use. Ipe is much nicer than the man-made plastic boards, and lasts about three times as long as yellow pine boards. I’m glad they came up with a wooden solution that will enable the boardwalks to survive for future generations. Go walk the boards. You’ll come back a better person for it. Guaranteed!


Linda said...

I can't walk on the boardwalk you've described, but your post has inspired me to slow down and observe the details when I do go out walking in my area. Too often, even in leisure, we hurry along. I think it's time to slow down and appreciate the little things around us.

Barbara Quinn said...

Yes, good point Linda about slowing down and observing! And that makes me realize we all do have a boardwalk beneath our feet, whether or not it's the actual one I wrote about.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I had my first (that I can recall) boardwalk walk this past summer! I went to Houston and my sis in law took me to Kemah, Texas (which is probably now destroyed or at least part way destroyed by the hurricane) and it was so nice! I loved it!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Nothing like a leisurely stroll across the weathered boards. If nothing else, I can always find a pier nearby to enjoy.

Barbara Quinn said...

Kat, I hope that boardwalk gets rebuilt and I'm glad you were able to experience it.

Angie,I love piers too!

Anonymous said...

Most of the old (and new) piers here went away this summer. Enjoy another for us.

Patresa Hartman said...

"walking the boards!" i love it. i also love "a xylophone with 2 notes." :)

iowa is great and all, but when i read these posts i want to live where you live. *sigh*

Barbara Quinn said...

Oren,May they rebuild those piers soon! and may they be long...and good for long opposed to that saying oh, go take a long walk off a short pier..;-)

Patresa, you'll have to come pound the boards with me someday. Someone should build one out by you in the middle of a field. That'd be fun!

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