I walked the long, isolated stretch of beach early one morning before the couples hand-in-hand, or young families eager to explore the limitless playground. Just me, sandpipers and gulls. My bare toes gripped the sand. The tide, quirky and cold washed over my feet, leaving beige sea-foam on my ankles.
By the time I returned, I’d picked up a shopping bag full of shell pieces, yellow and ochre and pink conch worn by the sand and water. I like the remnants best. Perfect shells are beautiful and make intriguing subjects to draw and paint. But I always feel guilty, wondering if the animal that lived there died to give up that perfect shell into the hands of divers who sell to tourists.
The shells I find on the beach, the ones Nature has deposited at the edge of the Ocean, broken and worn and empty, seem more of a gift, something to remind me of the beauty and capriciousness of the natural world.
It occurred to me as I laid them on the deck railing to dry that we are like those remnants.
The color and form are unique to each shell, the result of its individual journey. Like all of us. We may start from the same place – or seemingly similar circumstances – but by the time we find a resting place on the beaches of our lives we are unique. Broken and re-shaped into something individual and, like the shells lined up on the deck, achingly beautiful.
I stood at the edge
of the ocean
Breathing the solitude
We are part of this,
like shells brought in
And carried out
On the moving, breathing ocean.
I held a shell in my hands,
Closed my fingers over
Its smooth curving surface.
I thought of you.