Posts Tagged ‘Shells’

It is deliciously easy to lose oneself at the beach, where details are lost in the big picture and the big picture yields details unforeseen, while time melts into the horizon.

All at once.

Come beach combing with me…


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One of my favorite things about the beach is the number of surprises you can discover, both with and without tourists. Of course the surprises WITH tourists are always interesting and sometimes challenging – traffic, parking, finding a good place to set up, sand kicked by careless feet, thumping music, forbidden glass containers and trash.

On the upside, it’s fun to meet strangers and get acquainted, fun to share the wonder, and fun to help them find ways to enhance their visit with local advice, sharing know-how and, of course, good ol’ Southern hospitality. People always seem grateful to meet folks who have vinegar on hand for jellyfish stings or who know how to embellish sand castles. We always make a point to broaden our horizons with trips to the public beaches a few times during tourist season so as not to isolate ourselves on our favorite, more deserted beaches.

It’s been a fairly warm winter, and January left its mark on me with a couple of mild sunburns. Here are some of the highlights of these winter walks:

Twin tide pools, one stagnating and one crystal blue, separated by a narrow natural bridge:


Locals get first dibs on the big shells in the winter, even if we don’t get out there until high noon:


Big, fat jelly fish washed up:


Fun with homemade blow darts/gun:


No tourists were hurt in the making of this blog:




Castles under the boardwalk:


Winter sparkles:


Treasures in the waves and on the shore…and a mini-rip tide:


…and a mermaid with a shelly-belly button?


Next time, I’ll cover the part of the beach walks that cover me…

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God’s abundance…

If these shells are all dead creatures, think how many more are alive and thriving in the sea from which they washed up.

We only see parts of the whole.

Parts of me are dead,

yet alive,

“I am.”

Fragments of pieces of life within and without me.

Some I recognize, some I am not aware of even though they are part of me,

be it forgotten or unconscious or yet to be.

Only whole by the parts.

Only parts

by His grace.

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Sometime in the past year, I grew accustomed to taking a Sunday afternoon nap. Like a cozy, curled up kitty, I snuggle under my favorite blankie. There my mental hot air balloon sails, untethered, into another dimension.

These Sunday siestas somehow differ from my other conk-out conventions at night, which are more like extended power naps. At night my time is limited, packed with de-fusing from crazy days and anticipating how to manage the next crazy day.

But Sundays seem like a luxury. High strung as I can be, it took me weeks to chill out and give myself permission to pause, to see the afternoon nap as holding equal or greater value to, say, that last load of laundry glaring at me from the hamper, which taunts me that it’s nearly Monday.

Or the five spots of scuffed-off front porch floor paint nagging at me to be repainted every time I cross the threshold. And I refuse to repaint it until I can locate the correct colors I need for the beach-themed floor-mural I’m planning, which very well could fail because the only colors I can find on the market for outdoor floor paint are pool-blue and gad-a-mighty-ho-hum grey. I was hoping for greens and yellows and oranges and reds. Evidently there is no market for bright outdoor porch-floor paint.

Sherwin-Williams, are you listening?!

I suppose I like to dream outside the box. Thus my brain leads me to wander on these Sunday afternoons.

Today’s nap deposited me at the greatest of beaches – it was a melding of the dramatic Pacific coastline, the serenity of the Gulf, the desertion of the Bering Sea, the charm of the Côte d’Azur and the humbling of the Atlantic. And the mind-blowing dunes of Lake Michigan thrown in, too, for good measure.

Because I rarely stay in my designated spot while at the beach, I saw a dune and climbed it. It took great effort; the sand was fine and the dune was very tall, towering hundreds of feet over me. On my way up, I gained perspective to see that the tide was coming in, bringing with it exquisite treasures below.

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Once I was high enough up, I was also able to spot some groups of shells that others before me had collected and for some reason, left behind. This was intriguing – the shells, from afar, appeared full and big, perfectly formed and in hand-sized heaps, jut waiting for someone to come along and scoop up to claim as their own treasure. Yet there was no one else in sight. Why would they leave such a lovely mound of treasure like that? I made a mental note to skibble over there after I reached my current goal to top this dune to see what had caught my eye here.

Winded and exhilarated, I reached the top and, to my astonishment, there was a perfectly round sand dollar, deposited and long-forgotten. It had some faint fissures in it – the sun was bright, I was breathing too hard and so excited, I failed to take those fissures full into account, and I reached down to pick up the sand dollar.

As my fingers curled to touch it, the fissures became more clear – it was at risk of breaking if it was disturbed.

I fancied myself capable, however, of being able to both touch and feel this fragile treasure. I would not harm it; I had a way I knew to scoop the sand underneath it to maintain its integrity. I would be able to both enjoy and protect this coveted beauty.

It would take planning to do it right, and as I rehearsed in my head how to protect, preserve and capture it as mine, the shadows shifted and my eyes were drawn to the sky. The sun was about to set beyond the biggest of dunes where the intact piles of perfect treasures lay, and below, the tide continued to wash in even more treasures which beckoned me to explore.

I had to choose whether to abandon the imperfect which demanded my bravado and risk, to see if I could make it before dark to the piles of inviting treasures much higher, or allow gravity to carry me down swiftly to the shoreline where the rising tide had provided the unknown.

Intoxicated by excessive self-assurance (or was it arrogance?), I selfishly bent down again and, conscious of the setting sun, I tried my best to cradle the fissured sand dollar.

Seemingly before I had even touched the sand around it, it fractured and was no longer whole.

The sun was now down, dusk was fully upon me, and I was already having trouble keeping sight of the treasures beyond and the treasures below.

The pieces of broken sand dollar in hand, I descended the massive dune, wondering if the intact treasures beyond would still be there come sunup, and wondering what I’d missed in the tide.

Likely, they’d be gone, forever.

Or perhaps they never really existed.

I would – simply – have to find perfection in my broken sand dollar.


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Just minding my own business this past Sunday, doing what I do best, and looky what treasure washed up!


Shell, deposited right at my feet.

Doesn’t get any better than this.

Keep in mind, I foolishly thought if I sat on my arse a while longer and waited for the tide,

I’d be rewarded with more pretty shells.

Alas, the bottom of my low-slung chair got nailed with the next overzealous wave

and instead of treasure, all I got out of the deal was wet-butt for the rest of the afternoon.

So I got up and went for a walk, hoping the sea breeze would dry me off.

And this is what I found:


An all-natural shell island, carved out by the tide with little treasures exposed at the top.

Lots of them.

I was delighted and humbled all at once to have discovered the beauty made entirely outside my awareness until its discovery.

When you do what you do simply to do what you do,

just because,

without meaning to do or find anything extraordinary,

extraordinary sometimes finds you.

And then there’s Mrs. Em… Thank you

for your sweet words and for sharing with the world so many talented bloggers.

Like discovering a shell island,

We are blessed to get to know them all, and enriched beyond measure.

I am going to run out and get some Orbitz gum just to see what my blog is like, as you described.

In the trenches, it’s difficult to know what others see from the outside.

And the offer for iced tea on the front porch still stands.

We’ll chew some Orbitz, too (but not at the same time as the tea!).

Oh, and the general upshot of this post is that you can’t sit on your buh-hind and expect great things to show up at your feet.

Get up once in a while to let the wind dry off your uncomfortable butt and you might just stumble on

Something even better.

Okay, and since I work with kids, I have to simplify:

Do your best, don’t get lazy and step out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Only then can you connect with and acquire greater things,

Things you may never have known existed.

And for Pete’s sake, don’t stay in your chair with wet-butt.

I’d much rather you explore the beach with me.

Let’s go!

Thanks, God, for blogs and shells and friends and all unforeseen treasures You put in our path.

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If I were a stranger coming to visit me for the first time, I’m not quite sure what I’d think of myself. I would probably be so distracted by all the crap that I’d probably forget to ring the doorbell. I might even run. Or I’d wait to see what kind of creature emerged, out of sheer morbid curiosity, given the exterior clues.

I might say the person living here leads a bit of a busy, chaotic life (true).

This person could stand to be a little more organized (false – I am a hapless victim of sharing space with those with less superior organizational skills than myself, and I have learned it is best to keep the peace by resisting my impulses to impose order on a hoarder.).

This person seriously needs more space. Or less stuff (true).

This person should get to work (false, in my imagination).

This person has a mess-o-fun (more true than should be legal).

This person’s porch is a train wreck of information (you be the judge).

If you had blinders on, you would go directly to the door and either ring the doorbell or knock on this:

Grab him by the tail!

While you’re waiting and eavesdropping on the inevitable, audible mayhem indoors, you would glance over at this:

Welcome: We collect shells & friends. And Mardi Gras beads.

That is one of our children’s painted, glittered sand dollars behind the sign; I can’t recall which kid did it when. The only way to find out is to remove it and wait for the little artist to inquire where his masterpiece went. And at the bottom of the green beads, that is a very sun-faded alligator. It was an awesome parade catch last year and was on boastful display on the porch all year. Nobody told us the alligator would turn yellow. Oh, well. We kind of like him hanging around, regardless.

Whimsical junk so far, yes…when I grow up, I will have a more formalized, mature front porch – you know, gas lamps, properly propped cushions on perfectly painted wicker, sculptures, fountain, fireplace.  For now, though, this suits the kids, along with the garish Mardi Gras wreath opposite this scene.

You might trip over this on your way up to the door:

Interesting driftwood rescued from nearby bayou

Hopefully, this will catch your eye on the ground, so that you will not look up and behold this mess:

This Charlie Brown geranium has a date with a dumpster in the near future.

Pathetic. Why do we keep these sorry excuses of fauna? Because in the back of our heads we keep thinking “someday” I will magically emerge from a phone booth as a botanical superhero and nurse it back to a full, brilliant life. And besides, the local nurseries haven’t started carrying the good stuff yet that will take us through spring & summer. I’m holding out. If this bothers you, congratulations – it bothers me too.

(Side note to those born after 1990: Phone booths, kiddies, were cubically rectangular, see-through contraptions, not unlike a vertical version of the cryogenic capsule you’ll find yourself purchasing in the next decade or so. In a phone booth, you deposited a nickel – no, a dime – wait, last time was a quarter – into an old-fashioned telephone, complete with something like an umbilical cord which connected a black box with a rotary dial or buttons, and the receiver. You got to call somebody, and phone numbers began with a word followed by five numbers. In some cases you had to talk to a real person, an “operator,” to input your data verbally. These things were on most city corners. Because they did not have Angry Birds or other apps to occupy them back then, they used to have contests to see how many people could squish into one phone booth at a time. It was also where a dude named Clark Kent transformed into Superman and saved the day.)

In all honesty, the geranium opposite this one on the other side of the porch is doing marvelously, with multiple bright blooms. Really. And when I go to trash the one above, I will have a quandary as to what to do with the good geranium, since people like their porches symmetrical, and it would be porch-heresy to put non-matching hanging plants opposite each other. One year I did that because I wanted to. It drove the neighbors bananas, and I got more questions as to why. Everybody kind of got edgy about it. Geez Louise!

Speaking of symmetry on porches, we here in the South can always tell when a Yankee moves in (or an ingenuine Southerner). They will place two rocking chairs on either side of the front door, typically yards apart. This is front porch-fakery at its best. This is no way to enjoy a tall, frosty glass of sweet tea with another person – it renders you rudely hollering across the porch at each other. Nosireebob, a real Southern porch clusters furniture, even if it’s asymmetrical. It’s all about settin’ a spell and being neighborly.

Now, on our porch, we have two white rockers and this baby, all on one side:

The quintessential front porch amenity

Why is there an orange heart on the swing? Because I had extra paint leftover after I painted our mailbox with a sea scape. And orange is my favorite color. Besides, it went well with the cushion. Yes, symmetry fans, there is another orange heart on the other side, too. Rest well tonight.

It is from here that I sip a glass of this or that and watch my children grow up. From here I train the younger ones to come to me when they are called, the first time. It is where I rest after swinging on the big swing roped to the old oak tree. It is where I read and write and pray. It is where I cool off under the outdoor ceiling fan after a good, hard run. It is where I file away memories, where I unwind, and where I cultivate my marriage and parenthood. Oh, and to watch to see what the neighbors are up to and smile and wave as they go by.

Unfortunately, this is the view from the swing, in the opposite direction:

Holy Clutter, Batman!

That Buzz Lightyear keeps showing up where I least expect him. You’d think we had two in the house. Wait, we do. You have the toy cars, the disassembled hummingbird feeder, ever-open tackle box, useful string not in use, bike helmet, fishing poles, boogie boards, spare worms in blue container like a crown on the heap. Somewhere under that mess is a Radio Flyer wagon. Inner tube off to the side. And beneath the pew is a collection of dried, sandy, water shoes in several sizes and colors, along with some canoe paddles. Don’t forget the cat food and water dishes on the other side of the pew. The cat came with the house; they just kind of threw her into the deal, interest-free. Ditto for the pew. Long story behind the pew and our faith…suffice it to say, it was an original, hand-made pew which first served worshipers in a local church decades ago.

Scattered in front of the porch and beneath the azalea bushes and pineapple plants are scores of shells. We really do collect ’em.

Thanks, God, for front porches, for a sweet place to enjoy life, and for the things that make a house a home, and a home part of a community.

And thanks, dear friend, for joining me on the porch today. Now tell me, what does your front porch, or your front door area, say about YOU? What’s the most unusual, favorite or annoying thing lurking around your entryway?

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