I went to a beach house over the winter break. Relaxing and pleasant, and very quiet. I (re)learned a lesson of the shore.
To most of us, the beach and ocean are seasonal commodities, like lemonade and warm sunshine. We "use" them in the summer months and pack them away when the weather gets cold. The place was empty, almost deserted. Hotels were boarded up, saying things like: thanks for a great summer. reopening mid-April. Many were shuttered tight, with their No Vacancy light on. Of course, that was not true. There were lots of vacancies, but no one was around to let you in. The town shut down; hibernated from November through April. Half a year, all this real estate, built-up environment, infrastructure, lies fallow.
True, not all beach communities fold up by Thanksgiving; and more and more of them try to create a year-round atmosphere of dining, entertainment and relax-zzzzation. And reasonably so. They want to make the most of their investment.
And I can't blame those towns that happily wave goodbye to the seasonal invaders, heaving a sigh of relief. After all the fuss and bother of the summer months, the town deserves a good rest, and even more, needs a facelift. Maintenance, painting, fixing all get done in the off-season.
So, I am not complaining about the way the towns handle their cyclical lifestyles. But I am saddened that we, the visitors, hardly give the seas and beaches, and the towns that are built mostly for our use, a second thought once the days get short.
Is it wise, especially as built space becomes tighter and land more precious, to let such resources lay fallow, wasted, half the year? Can we creatively imagine how to use these places to the benefit of all? What if we moved the increasing homeless population whom we are struggling unsuccessfully to house (not the families with children who need to go to school but the adults who otherwise have no family or obligations to tie them to a community) during these bitter months to these places, house them at reasonable prices and put them to work cleaning and tending and mending these seaside communities? This may redeem both structures and souls, and help transition many of these folk back into lifestyles that can support jobs and homes.
Are there schools? retreats? other seasonal uses we can imagine utilizing these places so that we needn't build more places elsewhere, and so that we can reintroduce people to the wonders of nature "out of season?"
Appreciating the wilds all year round. Utilizing wisely, all year round, what we create. Perhaps these two goals can be blended to yield something greater than we can now imagine. Surely clever entrepreneurs and social activists can come up with something.