I’m the dharma beach bum and the ocean has always had my back.
Not long ago, I marked my 4,200th day on the beach, making more than one trip there on over 1,400 of those days. I average pacing through sand and surf for 1 1/2 hours every time I venture to the big pond.
Now in my early 50s — with arthritis slowly creeping into my left hip and knee — it’s getting harder and harder to make those trips. Hence, the walking stick. I have no plans on stopping. Good lord willin’ and the ocean don’t rise, I hope to make it to 5,000 days of fossil hunting before I even think of slowing down.
After a shortened career in newspapers as both a reporter and editor-in-chief of small newspapers, I moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, from central Pennsylvania in early August 1999. Much thanks to my mother and late father for first introducing me to the Grand Strand — Surfside Beach, actually — in 1969. Our family vacationed there or in Garden City for one week nearly every year before I deserted from the north.
So, I’m a damn Yankee — one who moves south and has no plans of ever moving back to the motherland. Since my friends down here have already told me that I’ll never be a southerner, I like to tell them that I’m a recovering northerner.
I’m obsessed with hunting fossilized sharks’ teeth and I love nature. Especially the beach.
The shore here along the Grand Strand is an awesome place to enjoy both. I’ve hunted sharks’ teeth and fossils from Pawley’s Island to North Myrtle Beach, averaging walking five miles every time that I pursue my passion. I’m little more than a rucksack-wearing zen lunatic wandering the beaches and sharing smiles and waves with anyone who wants to greet me.
Dharma Beach Bum is a forum through which I sometimes offer social and political commentary. My opinions have been characterized as “negative.” So be it. I look at my commentary as constructive criticism. I do my protesting with words, understanding very well that the pen is mightier than the sword. If I were a few years older, I would have been sitting down with fellow hippies in the 60s.
Before going further, I need everyone to know that I’m a believer in a higher power. While I don’t have any time for religious persecution, there are going to be blogs in which I write about hypocrisy within organized religion. The beach is my church: a sun-drenched sanctuary where nature gives the sermon. Whipping winds spread The Word and The Word is accompanied by a sea symphony. There’s no greater percussion section than the thunderous echo of the surf. The ebb and flow of waves over beds of crushed shells produces an ethereal, cymbal-like sound.
You’ll find me with my feet planted at the foot of those beds or pacing back-and-forth through them like one of those tin ducks in a county fair shooting gallery. Ping! Time to turn around. Fossils tend to be scattered among amassed shells and waves act as a natural sieve when washing over them. Sharks’ teeth move differently in the surf than do pieces of shell and gravel.
My fossil collection includes 36,000 sharks’ teeth — having given away another 26,000 to family, friends and fellow enthusiasts. I also have another 500 fossils, including fish skulls, stingray mouth plates and barbs, deer antlers, sea biscuits, horse teeth, whale and shark vertabrae, pieces of whale ribs and turtle shells, alligator teeth, a sand dollar removed from the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway, and chunks of mastodon and mammoth molars.
Mother Ocean has been kind to me. So, when I’m not finding fossils, I’m picking up trash. I owe her that much. Y’all, I get bummed out at the thought of our refuse being thrown and blown into the eternal rinse cycle. That’s why I write about it so much. Bear with me, please, if you find my repetitiveness annoying.
That’s the essence of my blog: to spread some dharma about my obsession, nature, the city and area I love, and people I’ve encountered on what has been a long, strange, beachcombing trip.