Lessons of Greenwich

The beach at Greenwich, PEI is spectacular, and intolerant. Visitors who arrive expecting calm aquamarine seas steps from cool margaritas will be disappointed. This shore is an emissary bearing two essential truths: Life is hard, but it’s also beautiful.

People are interlopers here. Fishers bob offshore, and the summer sun teases out the occasional bather, but neither really belongs. This is a tough place. Its draw lies in its raw power. Greenwich is universal like the summer night sky, sparkling and alive.

Piping Plovers peep and hop along the churning shore. Gulls swoop and screech to scare wanderers from their nests in the dunes. Earth and sea wage war. The Gulf of St. Lawrence storms the beach and pounds red Island cliffs into sandy bluffs. The earth sweeps up its casualties into tidy mounds, and the minion dune-grasses keep score in delicate wind-swept etchings.

The secret to appreciating Greenwich is complete submission to it. It’s lying prone in summertime tidal pools as waves sweep over. It’s running barefoot screaming through October’s cold and crashing swells. Submission also means acknowledging that this place is before and after us, and that even essential truth can get lost in the human preoccupation with progress.

Published in the Globe and Mail, May 26 2001.

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