Where Earth Meets Water

Where Earth Meets Water
Photos by Stephen Devries
 Our man-made borders call out, asking to be crossed. Stamp a passport, and you're off. Something stands out about the coastlines, though. Always moving, forming, and reforming—they are not so easily mastered. When we encounter these places where earth meets waters—whether paradises or ports, remote getaways or posh destinations—if we are honest with ourselves, we also face the spaces of humanity’s deepest vulnerabilities and most profound achievements. We go, my husband and I, the photographer and the historian, and we experience, observe, even analyze a bit.

Corsica, France

A Corsican ushered in the modern age. Did the rocky terrain of this island or the waves of the Mediterranean propel Napoleon Bonaparte into the role of conqueror? His empire is long gone, but the island remains. Dine beachside on fresh seafood, find state-of-the-art resorts tucked subtly among the arid foliage, wander through shops residing in caves cleft out of the islands' rocky coastal walls. Each encounter offers an experience with the islands' persistent relationship with its natural environs.

Bondi Beach,
Sydney, Australia

One of Sydney's most fashionable destinations, Bondi Beach lures in surfers, sunbathers, yogis, and the casual-but-intentional wanderers who find themselves so at home in Australia. Here Sydney feels most like Southern California (with better coffee). The narrow roads leading up to the beach are lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. The infinity pool at the edge of the ocean is a Bondi icon. It's fantasy fulfilled: a statement to the waves that come crashing against the beach that maybe, just maybe, we can have our stylish relaxation and wild love of nature at the same time. Here we see how the place that was supposed to be a prison became a paradise to so many.

The Grand Canal,
Venice, Italy

Venice remains a labyrinth. Wander its streets, dine in its restaurants, eat all the seafood, and linger there among its corridors and networks of canals. Consider the way it once bustled with commerce. This is where Shakespeare’s merchant demanded his pound of flesh, where children must have first called out the name “Marco Polo,” and the Ottomans encountered whatever Europe was supposed to be. It is a reminder that before humans flew on planes or rocketed themselves into space, they first had to set sail on dauntingly open seas.

Saona Island,
Dominican Republic

A blissful island retreat rests off the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic. We traveled there by catamaran, dined on freshly prepared lobster, and shared bug spray with fellow-travelers from Germany. A little ways off of the beach, our boat stopped at a starfish sanctuary, where we swam in warm waters among the echinoderms. Reclining on the beach, one feels out of time and place. The moon pulls the tide, and we are merely along for the ride. Back on the mainland, tourists move through the capital. Farther west, Haiti looms in the silences. The sea brings us full circle, and I’m reminded that like the ocean, the meaning of these places is constantly shifting.