Thursday, March 11, 2010

This is My Beach

There is a saying among the Carioca, “all things die on the beach in Rio”.

I contemplate this phrase as I walk along the shore, with either beer or coconut milk settling in my bloodstream. At sunset couples walk hand in hand, children laugh as they run in and out of the water, soccer balls fly and bounce with impunity. Off shore the sea may be gentle, warm, light green waves in the last rays of day. Occasionally, the sea is rough edged, dark and forbidding, landing near your feet on shore with a thud.

Everything on the beach is temporary and casual, the result of unspecified but obvious rules. The beach has outlived bans and survived legislation because it is a culture where grandiose plans, straight lines, goals and trivialities are shed with the next wave.

Here at the edge of the eroding continent is a place where men cannot build castles. Instead, the people erect fantasy in the clouds. Here, the flesh is unleashed and the body is freed when the street clothes come off.

Not unlike a tribal community, denizens of the beach are made up of people who are territorial. They carry on traditions honed over the decades by staking out a place on the beach in the company of those they enjoy. There is the Globo television set, the fashionistas, the journalists, the business elite, artists, and the body cult. They find their spots along Ipanema, Copacabana or La Blon.

With two million people at the beach on weekends in the summer, a vast community is nowhere else but the beach. The regular life is forgotten. People who are not working the new, new thing are looking for friends or a place in the sun, an umbrella, a chair and a vendor to keep them supplied with tasty treats and beer for the duration of their stay. They sit for hours, often with people they may never see off the beach. By some instinct - perhaps a survival technique honed through generations – these sun worshippers remain relevant and secure in their place. If threatened by petty annoyances, they leave with a simple phrase: “It’s not my beach,”

With all this in mind one day I throw a handful of hand-written daily intentions into a wild sea hoping to find a generous god who will deliver them to the appropriate Shepard. The paper notes are quickly sucked back into the waves. Perhaps dreams don’t die at the beach.
Photos by Delma Godoy

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