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Remember this not only because it is beautiful and a beautiful place, but because we are about to be swallowed by spring snow one more time here in Colorado. Sigh.
White Bay, Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: “Morning without you is a dwindled dawn.” – Emily Dickinson
Finding special presents for special people
My dearest handyman
It’s getting better here in Colorado – we had blue skies today – but I’m still wishing to be here on the wide white beach.
Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida.
Quote of the day: “There comes a time in every life when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn to know the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” – Sarah Dessen
Friendly bus passengers
The positive attitude of the one-legged woman
Getting to see MKL today
A bit of a tan
Or at least one of the views from Marina Cay. Every view is fabulous there, but I always love hanging out on my little porch. Guess I’m feeling a touch homesick for the islands.
Marina Cay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: ”You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.” – Mary Manin Morrissey
Housecleaning, even though it hurts sometimes
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
People walking their horses on a dirt road
While I’m kind of throwing you into the beginning of our trip with this image, I didn’t want to leave you hanging with nothing. This is sunset from the restaurant at our hotel, the Heritage Inn, on Tortola on our first night. Not every sunset needs color to be stunning.
Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: “Each of us has an inner dream that we can unfold if we will just have the courage to admit what it is. And the faith to trust our own admission. The admitting is often very difficult.” – Julia Cameron
Finding a mooring ball for your heart
Not getting hit by what wasn’t a train
When my truck is parked in a row of trucks just like it
That there are times in my life when I can forget that shoes exist
Meeting a new power animal this morning
Sunsets actually can look like this in some parts of the world. And I’m off on Friday to see just such a sunset.
Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: “There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela
That my niece is home for a while
A strong arm to lean on when I’m discombobulated
The man with the old high-wheel bicycle
People watching on the 16th Street Mall
Photo title: Pink Rock
Junk’s Hole, Anguilla.
Quote of the day: “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.” ~Barbara Bloom
My nest of pillows when I’m lonely
Bright blue skies
Photo title: Flip Flop Portrait
Pomato Point, Anegada, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – e.e. cummings
The woman who made the cool drawing in the condensation on the bus window this morning
Not having to scrape my windshield today
Vintage snakeskin boots
Sabbatical soon come
Photo title: Knee Level
Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: “We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.” – William Somerset Maugham
The subtle irony of the Hooters girls dining en masse at the The Cheesecake Factory
That my hair is getting longer
My green chile with pork (what is it, chile verde con piggie?)
Lovely autumn days
There are two kinds of people in the world: people who love seashells and people who could not possibly care less about them. I am (as you might imagine) the former, and I simply cannot comprehend how anyone could be the latter. Countless times, as I have wandered beaches looking at and through piles of shells, I have seen people walk over those same piles with an absolute unconsciousness. Don’t they know that they are trodding on treasures, crushing gems from nature beneath their calloused soles?
Many a day, I returned from a morning beach walk with a sunburned and aching back and a bag full of shells – if I’d had the foresight to take a bag with me. Otherwise, it was handfuls, with more stuck in the entryways of whatever swimsuit I had on. When I was little, my mother and grandmother were the ones with the sore backs – guess I was closer to the ground and more flexible in those days.
When I was little, we took the train to Florida to see my grandparents. As I think about it, I know that we saw the sea there, but it doesn’t strike me as my first memory of seeing the sea. I think it’s because we were on a gulf beach and there were no waves. I do remember that we spent the day on a beach that sort of jutted out in a little peninsula, and my mother told me that on one side of the peninsula, where we were, the water was gentle and calm, but on the other side, the water was colder and had a current that could pull me away from the shore. I didn’t go in the water much at all, but E-Bro did, with my mother.
We gathered up so many shells – my brother found a hammerhead shark washed up on the beach, and we found several huge horseshoe crab shells. We packed up a lot of shells in our suitcases and carted them back to North Carolina. But once we got them home, the stench was overwhelming. Clearly, we had brought home a few that still had some animals living inside – and they hadn’t enjoyed the train ride.
I must have been very small on that trip, because we hadn’t been to Topsail yet, and we went to Topsail when I was 7 (I think). But after that trip, I was hooked on shells. Mother would take me to the library at Duke, to one particular set of stacks that housed more biological science books. I can remember the room, but I can’t remember what building it was in. These stacks held shelves and shelves of books about seashells. On very rare occasions, I was allowed to check one out to look at the pictures. (The good thing about being a librarian’s daughter is that your parents never had to worry about you not being careful with books.) My favorite was a large book written by a man who had travelled the world, spending months on remote deserted islands, gathering shells. One page would have a large picture of a rare and beautiful shell against a black background, and the facing page would be his account of where he found the shell and what he knew about it. That was what I decided I wanted to do – be him. Or rather, travel the world to remote desert islands collecting shells. I was slightly disillusioned when my mother told me that he had to collect the shells with the animals still inside and remove (a.k.a. kill) the animals – I felt bad for the animals. But that was probably my first career goal – to be a beachcomber.
When we started going to Topsail and to Hatteras, I collected so many shells it was unbelievable. I was completely indiscriminate, and my Mother literally did not get rid of the boxes and boxes of shells in the basement until she sold the house almost 35 years later. Neither of us could bear to part with them. Though she tried. And eventually, we did.
Shell collecting at Hatteras was different from shell collecting at Topsail.
Surprisingly, even though the distance between the two points on the North Carolina coast is only about 150 miles, the beaches offer a diversity of shells. Hatteras, likely due to its rough waters and extended location into the Atlantic, is (or used to be) a repository for conch and scotch bonnet shells, amazingly intact and rarely found farther south.
Topsail, on the other hand, held shark’s teeth, scallops, drills and other tiny shells that my Mother so loved.
While the north end of Topsail Island is now fully (over) developed, in the early 70s, it was barren and windswept, with only the remnants of some naval activity visible in old bunkers and metal hulls. I remember the first time we walked out on the beach, so different from the beach just a few miles up the road, I looked down and found one of the rarest shells I have ever found. The next trip, my grandmother found a Lion’s Paw – I was so jealous.
When I moved North for college, one of my first “important” boyfriends gave me a shell that he had found on a beach in Israel, and strung it on a gold chain for me. I wore that even after we broke up, until I went back home for the summer, and found myself next to the ocean. It was as if I needed to have a little piece of the sea with me at all times.
And one of the most special gifts Pat ever gave me was a gold cast of a seashell from Topsail that I wore on a chain – it was his own idea, which made it even more special.
On a trip to South Padre Island, in theory to visit my father-in-law before he died, I recall making one of my first and favorite “executive decisions” to buy a small shell-framed heart-shaped mirror for our house. I think I’ll bring it with me to my house. Ex-Pat will never miss it.
When Kelsea was born, she went to Topsail when she was 9 months old. She’s gone every year since. Up until her time in Wales and Ireland, it was her “happy place”. Much to ex-Pat’s chagrin, she is as enamored of seashells as I am, though I have helped her temper for collecting tendencies so that they are much more manageable. And I have also reached a point where I am quite discriminating in the shells that I gather at Topsail.
But once I started travelling to the Caribbean, the urge to beachcomb returned with a vengeance, as there were new and unusual shells on the beaches of the BVIs and Anguilla. With the exception of the conch that I found and smuggled home, most of them were mercifully small, and colors I’d never seen before – orange, purple, green. They now live in small, special bowls in various niches in my cottage.
But even on my last trip to Anegada, I wandered the shores with my hands full, not having the foresight to bring something to carry my treasures in (other than an empty beverage cup). Though I outsmarted myself by finding flotsam that could be used as a container. I was so proud of my little self!
I still have dreams (actual nighttime dreams) of wandering shell-rich beaches, collecting treasures beyond belief. And I’d be lying if I said that shelling is not a factor in considering which beaches around the world to visit. Eventually, I’ll make it to Sanibel Island, my childhood fantasy.
Enough for today, but tomorrow, I will treat you to a treatise on the many roles the shell has played in many cultures.
And I will leave you with the mental image of the return of the catamaran on which I took my first snorkel trip; they had a tradition of allowing each of us to blow a conch shell to announce our arrival into the harbor. My honk was kind of feeble, but with the sun setting on the hills of Tortola, the essence of the experience was primitive and magical.