One of the assignments that “The Artist’s Way” doles out each week is to go on an “artist’s date.” This is time set aside each week – whether it be an hour or an entire day – to do something or go somewhere that invigorates, replenishes, or stokes your creative spirit. The book maintains that creativity is a source from within that needs to be replenished, and the idea that creative output without just as much input leads to a resource-less artist is something that I have come to know all too well. Initially, I had no idea how I would make time to essentially go on a date with myself each week, but if this was a practice that would lead to my feeling more inspired, creative, and at peace, I couldn’t afford not to.
I had set aside today (Thursday) for my artist’s date earlier this week because I knew it was the day that would afford me the most flexibility as far as time and other commitments. I am lucky enough to have a lot of control over my weekly schedule, so I was able to set aside as much of the day as I needed. I decided to visit the Delaware Bay in Fortescue, NJ. I had never been there before and I remembered being told that it was a fantastic place to hunt for sea glass. I have always loved the beach and the water, and I knew being in that space would be regenerative and healing for my in and of itself, and sea glass is something that I have always found beautiful and amazing.
In case you are unfamiliar, sea glass refers to pieces of glass that have been tumbled by the ocean – the salt water, sand, and waves smooth the pieces into edge-free, frosted gems in as many colors as one can imagine. I love the idea of something that would have ordinarily been considered trash – in this case glass – being made beautiful by a harsh and difficult process. I think it speaks to life and humanity and thriving despite difficult circumstances to become something beautiful.
There are many places throughout the United States that boast sea glass findings, but the glass is becoming more and more difficult to come by. As littering is discouraged (a positive!) and more products shift to plastic, the amount of glass that makes its way into the water to be naturally tumbled by the ocean is less and less. The Delaware Bay was home to a 19th century glass manufacturing company – making it an especially rich resource for the gems. Certain colors are considered more rare than others – white, green, and brown being more common with blues, blacks, purples, and pinks being much more rare. I had never been to Fortescue before and I had no idea what I would find in the way of glass once I got there, but I was excited to go and I made sure to set the intention that the day would be inspiring, beautiful, and worthwhile no matter what I did or did not find.
After the slightly-over-an-hour drive and a lot of beautiful, marshy scenery, I arrived in Fortuscue rather unexpectedly. Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised when the road I was on dead-ended and my GPS announced that I had arrived. It was a small town – if it could be called a town. A few blocks of small houses along the edge of a wildlife preserve. No beach to speak of, as far as I could tell, and a lot of rocky breakers. I drove along the bay until I found a place to pull over, parked my car, and got out. I was there during the highest point of the tide (something I didn’t think about before taking the trip), so much of the traditional beach was under water. I did manage to find a small strip of sandy beach about 1/2 mile from where I parked my car, and immediately set to walking it, head down, to look for the glass I had come to find.
I was in luck!
Among the shells, rocks, plant life, dead horseshoe crabs, and drift wood I found a small, smooth, white piece of sea glass. Once I spotted the first, the rest seemed to jump out at me with little effort. I strolled the beach and picked up each piece I came across. The weather was perfect – chilly near the water, but warm enough, sunny, and breezy. I felt happy, calm, and thrilled that I did actually find some glass.
The sand stopped rather abruptly. I stood in front of what looked like several miles of dunes. The side closest to the road were made of sand, beach grass, and those little wooden fences, as one would expect from dunes. The other side, directly bordered by the water, were made up of large rocks, chunks of cement, bricks, and what I can only describe as crumbled up buildings set up as an elaborate and haphazard breaker to keep the waves from eroding the dunes and flooding the road. There were signs posted discouraging people from climbing the breakers, and the waves were particularly aggressive, but I decided to see how easy they would be to climb anyway.
I carefully picked across the jutting rocks and concrete slabs, stopping whenever I needed to hide from an oncoming wave or found a little hidden place that held shells, rocks, and, sometimes, glass. It was challenging and fun. I got hit by several waves and was drenched by the end of the journey, but some of the best finds of the day came from the little crevices between large rocks and under the few slabs of concrete I was able to shift and move. I even found a lovely piece of light blue glass – which may have made being pommeled by the freezing bay water worth it.
I loved everything about my adventure today. I feel happy and calm and inspired. I also feed really rewarded knowing that I spent time doing something for my inner artist – and I’m thrilled to see what things I can make with my new little collection of sea glass! I will definitely return to Fortescue in the future to see what else I can find- maybe not alone this time, and I can’t wait until next week and Artist’s Date #2!