Located on the northern coast of California, Glass Beach seemed a bit elusive, almost mythical when I first heard about it. A beach covered with thousands of pieces of multi-colored glass.
Our first quest led us to the wrong location. However, asking around we quickly found the beach in Fort Bragg and ventured there early one morning after the sun had just risen. Glass, freshly coated with salt water, was glittering in the sun.
Glass Beach didn’t start out this beautiful. It started as a city dump where trash was thrown directly into the ocean. Out of sight, out of mind.
Nearly fifty years went by before they stopped this practice, but by that time the sea was filled with glass and metal which the ocean and rocky coast line thrashed around in the surf. I’m not sure when the glass first started appearing on the shores, but the beaches are now filled with smooth glass polished by years of rubbing against rough waves, rocks and sand.
I spent hours walking around and talking photographs, convinced that the most beautiful combination of glass pieces was just around the next corner. I was particularly drawn to the emerald greens and the rare blues – two of my favorite colors.
Landscapes speak to me. Some louder than others. Two of the most resonant are near oceans or have agricultural roots. So I’ve always been intrigued by Sea Ranch, a community designed in the 1960s by noted landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, the Frederick Law Olmsted of our time. He used innovative design principles* to create a residential community on the site of a former sheep ranch and in the process created a space that has deeply touched all those who’ve lived and visited here.
I was working in the area and had been traveling non-stop for work for about ten days so decided to take a couple days off and explore. I didn’t have a plan – just my car, some clothes and camping gear. However, when one of the largest storms in years decided to descend on that section of the California coast I decided against sleeping in the elements and rented a little cottage in Sea Ranch. Later it seemed meant to be. There is no better way to experience a place than being a part of it, even if it is for a brief time.
The storm prevented me from exploring every last nook and cranny, but each time the clouds parted or at least stopped dumping rain and blowing gale force winds I ventured out for hikes through the bluffs, meadows and wind rows. I felt like I had the place to myself which allowed a great deal of reflection. It also gave me privacy when the klutzy self of my youth reemerged and I tripped, fell and sprained my ankle. I laughed out loud at myself, drank in the expansive view of the Pacific Ocean and was, at that moment, reminded how very lucky I am to live the life I’m living.
Now on to the next adventure…
*Sea Ranch Design Principles
Nature predominates… not buildings
Rural setting… not suburban
Home size modest… not enormous
Exteriors simple… not showy
Design guidelines… not “anything goes”
Sense of community… not “statement” houses
Aesthetics valued… not disregarded
There is so much wonder in this story that I had to share it. You know how much I love photography and traveling. Well this man’s story about a roll of film that propelled him on an amazing adventure marries both beautifully.
I’ve been following this story since December when it could have just as easily been me who found the roll of film in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park after that crippling holiday snow storm. I was just down the street housesitting for friends and also venturing out into the snow to photograph the frozen and buried city. Thankfully Todd Bieber found the film canister when he was cross-country skiing through the park and decided to pick it up.
I love so much about this story, but my favorite part is why Todd picked up the film instead of skiing right by it, as he said he would normally do. To be honest, most of us would. But Todd remembered something a friend told him, “fun stories happen when you make choices you wouldn’t normally make.” Now those are words to live by! I hope just knowing about this story will encourage all of us to make a few choices we wouldn’t normally make and add a few more adventures to our lives.
Here is the story on NPR about his adventure…
Lost Roll of Film Returns to Mystery Photographer
Here is the video Todd produced about the last phase of his journey to reunite the film with the photographer…