Wednesday, April 11, 2012

shell game

Even though I now live at the beach, or at least a stone's throw away, I still like to collect shells. There is something about finding a perfectly shaped, pristine shell, amid all of the worn, crunched, and battered fragments that is eminently satisfying. A real find is a shell with a hint of color — anything from purple to pink to deep orange to bright yellow also makes for a happy discovery.

Sometimes I wonder if all of our likes and predilections were imprinted on us during a tiny childhood window. I used to live near the beach when I was a kid too, at the Jersey Shore, a quite lovely, laid-back place, very different from any current cartoons of the same name on television. My family used to go to the beach nearly every night after dinner. My dad would surf cast, my brother and I would play in the sand, and my mom would draw us with her pastels.

mom pastel

We would only go to the beach, go swimming, when friends or relatives came to town in summertime. My mom didn't drive, and it was too far to walk. On one of those excursions I must have filled my pail full of shells. I remember I found a fragment, probably of a clam shell, that had hints of pink and was bordered in a deep purple. Such delicate color, as opposed to the usual gray-to-white clam shells or tons of mussel shells that littered the beach.

I treasured my find, like a talisman, and kept it for years. Now I have no idea what became of it. But maybe I scour the sands still, in search of that missing piece of my Jersey girl past. Or, more likely, I really just like surprises in nature, and the color purple.
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