Janet Schrader talks about a bowl
Janet Schrader talks about a bowl

Local “sand pirate” Janet Schrader helmed the Friends of the Library-sponsored program What IS That? A Guide to Beach Glass, Fossils, Whale Burps, and Other Beach Treasures, which was held at the New Buffalo Township Library Tuesday, May 16.

Schrader opened the evening with a moving recap of her personal history and connection to Harbor Country beaches, and gave depth and meaning to each piece of sea glass and crinoid (Indian Bead) that she has picked up during her many walks on the beach. Throughout her lakeside career, she has taken on multiple personalities, from “fairy godmother services” to “professional sand sculptor” to “found object photographer” to the one for her newest endeavor in a soon-to-be open retail space in Bridgman, Michigan.

As stated by Schrader, each fossilized flower and tumbled coral is a treasure to her, and each “whale burp” (a coconut-shaped water tumbleweed of trash) is a reminder of the thoughtless ways in which some leave their junk behind after an otherwise great day at the beach. Schrader pointed out that Lake Michigan has some of the highest amounts of garbage per square kilometer than any body of water, with cigarette butts making up about half of the garbage. Despite the disappointing refuse situation, Schrader said some of the tiny riches scattered along the shore are still a blessing to her.

When asked, Schrader said, “Peace of mind is the best thing I’ve ever found on the beach.” (That, and a diamond ring).