A creative non-fiction essay by Rebeca Hernández Hernández, Universidad de La Laguna.

‘El Socorro’ is a quite small and natural beach in Los Realejos, my hometown in Tenerife, Canary Islands. It is one of the most precious and beloved places there and a meeting point in Summer for decades, a place to sunbathe, if the panza de burro permits it, or to enjoy one of the clearest and cleanest waters of the Canary Islands. However, when winter comes and a warm coldness invades the town, tides turn rougher, as transformed by the power of the Moon, so the beach changes its nature too and becomes not so safe and peaceful. As a result of this stormy state, manifold rocks are moved from the water to the sand by the strong current and the impressive waves. And there they remain for months. Or at least that was what I thought.

It is in April when the weather turns warmer and people start to go to the beach again, when ducks that stayed there to spend the milder winter leave and return to their place, when new fashionable swimsuits are bought compulsively to look perfect in every single situation and when the few parking spaces, that only half of the people that visit the beach can use, change the intense greenness of banana plantations into a greenness invaded by some metallic shades. It was on one of those April days that I decided to go to ‘El Socorro’, which I considered as mine as everyone else’s. There was no special reason why I decided that day to go there. I wanted to look at the sea, listen to the sounds produced by the waves breaking on the shore and to have a good time and relax. As I have said, nothing special.

It was at that moment, sitting on the bench of the little promenade that divided the peaceful beach from the artificial road, that I realized how strange the beach looked that afternoon. There were not many people; the weather was hotter in April but not as to go to the beach in a cloudy afternoon at 6 pm. The beach looked completely empty, although there were some people in the sand playing cards or just chatting. At that moment, the image of the beach from the last time I went there in March came to my mind. Then, I realized: all the “annoying” rocks that were deposited by the sea in the sand had disappeared. I did not think that they were swallowed by it again; that was unlikely to happen. Nevertheless, I did not pay much more attention to it. I had heard that the local government was interested in removing all the rocks, so more people could visit the beach in summer without any type of “space problem». It did not seem to me something important or detrimental. ‘They were just rocks’ I thought. And then I forgot the issue.

Some months later, at the very beginning of May, I started to go to the beach after finishing my exams at university.  As usual, I had to park my car far from the beach, so I started a wonderful walk that took me ten minutes. However, as the way down to the beach had a considerable slope, I could have a panoramic view of the entire shore from the road. It was a sunny day, at 12 am, the beach was full: towels and beach umbrellas of different colours and styles were everywhere. Suddenly, something else drew my attention. There were some empty spaces that no one was occupying among the umbrellas, which was not usual. The more I get closer to the beach, the less I understood why there were some spaces not used to place towels or to walk across.

After a few minutes walking, I entered the beach and examined the place by looking at every single detail. Thus, I noticed that the level of the sand was lower than before: I had to make an effort to jump from the stairs to the sand. Besides, I kept on staring at the beach and I finally understood why these spaces were not being used: there were huge rocks which were appearing and growing like plants out of the sand. Instantly, I was revealed all: the sand was being dragged away by the tide, since there were not rocks that can fix it to the beach. Therefore, the beach was running out of sand every time the tide went up and ebbed.  Wishful thinking! The local governors wanted to make the most out of the beach to promote themselves. They did not worry about the environmental impact that it could cause. We altered nature, and now we are witnessing the consequences.

I left my towel on the dark remaining sands and I went to have a bath with all those thoughts in my mind. The sea was rough and the waves were huge. And then I feel small, insignificant, and arrogant. Small: because I was just a human being facing a whole ocean. Insignificant: because the sea could have drowned me at any moment. Arrogant: because I had always thought I had the right to decide upon nature. Did I?

I looked at the sea. It was furious, as if it were showing its rejection to me, and for the first time in “my” beach, I felt vulnerable. Funny, isn’t it? After this cathartic moment, I decided to come back to my towel, and obeyed my mother’s words: “Never turn you back to the sea.”  We think we can tame nature. How curious: We cannot.