Yet another reminder that all the things we want to be constant slip away, and we’re in a constantly changing reality. Even this smallish tropical storm drastically changed the beach.

On the beach, you’re more acutely aware of the vulnerability of our existence and the need to constantly adapt to new realities. It’s true everywhere, but on the beach, it’s heightened. A tropical storm comes through, and sand is rearranged, dunes and signs are gone, walkovers are destroyed and a chunk of pier is sitting on the sand. And that was just a tropical storm.

We find ourselves angry and resistant at times to this. Outraged that our lives are interrupted. Feeling helpless that with all our buildings, machines and giant egos we can’t do anything about it. Other times, we’re different. We roll with it, understanding that we can control some things and not others. Some even find a certain beauty in letting go.

Pema Chodron is quoted as saying, “Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.”

That concept of living in the reality of today is important. It’s exemplified by many of the older surfers, fishers, beachcombers and others who are tied closely to the water and sand.

Even thinking about my Grandma, who was a beach person, like her mother before her. She lived so simply, and I think that helped her adapt to an ever-changing reality even as she aged. When she died, a good friend of mine and I cleaned out her apartment in a couple of hours. Her footprints were so light, but she was so powerful and present.

Galveston is entering a new phase. I know when we, at the end of the season, assess the beach and tourism activity for the year, there will be data to support this. But my guards already feel the difference in beach use. We just hit 285,000 preventative actions for the entire year.

These are interventions where we move people away from danger. Last year was our busiest year so far, and we only hit about 210,000. By the end of the year, we’ll measure this as a year with a 30 percent increase in the amount of work the beach patrol did to keep people safe. More people moved, more rescues, more emergencies at all hours responded to than ever before.

When we had a staff meeting of our full-time crew and I looked at the faces of those leaders within our ranks, I saw fatigue. But I didn’t see exhaustion or defeat. They’ve been working so hard but still have plenty left to give. I saw resolve and acceptance of change and new realities.

There’s satisfaction in being challenged and handling it. And there’s a certain peace and focus that comes with accepting that our world is always changing. The beach is a great teacher.

“Awareness of impermanence and appreciation of our human potential will give us a sense of urgency that we must use every precious moment.” — Dalai Lama

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity.


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(3) comments

Bailey Jones

Pema Chödrön FTW! She is a great teacher.

Meditating on the Buddhist principle of anicca, or impermanence, is a great way to make sense out of this crazy world - the difference between riding a wave and being drowned by it. It certainly helps get me through my day. And so apt for life on an island that is literally nothing but a pile of sand.

285,000 preventative actions is an astounding number. They don't pay you guys enough.

Rick Altemose

Couldn't agree more!

George Laiacona

Pete all you have said has merit, but you must remember it takes money to do anything, and that includes our beaches. The existing and previous politicians do not care to spend money to keep our beaches alive. They have other priorities. They must take care of the people that line their pockets with money, first. Then the money runs out year after year. Until the day comes when we have politicians that really believe our island needs attention nothing will happen.

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