By Richard W. Daggett
The tide is out, the sea is fair, an island breeze perfumes the air. It’s a beachcomber kind of day. In fact it is a perfect day for hunting sea glass. There are often such days in Hawaii when the islands seem posed in a motionless snapshot of breathtaking loveliness. The sunshine is so brilliant that coconut palms and the ocean virtually dance in the delight of their own colors.
The days seem filled with magic and wonder. Days when just the right combination of air and sky and sea and the angle of sunlight entice an incredible vibrancy of hues to absolutely everything and most particularly sea glass.
It is days like this that yank at the hearts of artists, explorers, beachcombers, daydreamers, “glassers,” and all who seek discovery. Days that pull us into the mountains and rainforests and of course our lovely ocean with an irresistible beckoning, “Come, come find me, come discover me.”
To the sea glass hunter this call is especially compelling. It is a call to search for and to discover color: colors of fantastic varieties, subtle hues and perfection. As all things of beauty possess varying degrees of perfection, every single discovery brings the obsessive anticipation of an even lovelier find. Perhaps it is that compelling quest for perfection, for finding and discovering perfect beauty, the ideal gem-quality piece, that drags us most wonderfully down the beach. It drags us down ever beach in the continuing search of that one-of-a-kind piece and the ultimate joy of discovery.
Now on this perfect and magical day, although at my office, I was suddenly consumed with a quest to go to the ocean and retrieve perhaps the rarest of sea glass pieces, a bright, burning, cherry red. Of course, I already knew such a venture required absolute faith and certainty; and with those thoughts firmly embedded in my mind, I approached the shore.
Now, later, I can assess the unfathomable chances for such an endeavor. To wade into the ocean, the largest, mightiest, most vast sea on Earth to enter the water at a precise pin point—at a specific instant, not a split second sooner or later—and to capture a tiny gem about the size of a marble. And then to find this jewel in the exact color dreamed of. Wow! What a miracle.
I call my perfected strategy “High tide hunting.” I stand about waist-high in the ocean parallel to the waves so as to more safely absorb the impact of surf and avoid being smashed ashore or swept out to sea. The objective is to stare into the water and then instantly grab for that telltale flash of color in the white foam of the surf. The opportunity presents only a second as one wave recedes and the next is upon me.
I had discovered the sea floor dropped off sharply just a few meters out. Incoming waves rolled up over the abyss and brought with them tons of pebbles, stones, shells, and often sea glass. Nothing lingered, however, and was rather instantly washed back out to sea. I had arrived at the beach this day with the single absolute certainty that this wonderful, warm and generous Pacific Ocean would bring me my gem-quality sea glass.
At about 3:00 pm while standing in knee deep water, dodging waves suddenly right in front of me, there it was: an incredible, breathtaking flash of brilliant red. I lunged for it taking a full face of salt water and surf and a fist full of sand and pebbles. Almost afraid to open my hand, I raced ashore to the safety of the beach. Of course, seasoned sea glass hunters had told me “You will be very lucky if you ever find a red in an entire lifetime of searching.”
Wow! Opening my hand, there it was: a drop-to-the-knees treasure glistening in the Hawaiian sunshine. Where did it come from? How many decades had it frolicked in the sea? One could never know. I stared out at my most mysterious, wonderful ocean and made a promise to wrap this treasure in gold and present it to our vast and admiring family of sea glass lovers.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2020 issue.
Underwater photo (top) by Paul Lawson