Monday, June 13, 2011

Trolling the Dregs

I noticed along the line from last night’s high tide a distinct gathering of sea debris. I like to troll along the craggy line looking for treasures. Sometimes I see a random cig butt or plastic cap but mostly I see the bits of seaweed, twigs and a vast array of seashells. The shells range in shape and size. Some appear whole and the rest are pieces-parts. I consider myself an experienced collector with a keen eye for selecting the finest of the available pickings on any given day at the beach. Realize this makes the process subjective to mood, season and any number of other outside circumstances but relatively still 'a day at the beach', in any opinion better than a day not at the beach.
As far as my knowledge of sea life genus and species, I boldly admit I have close to zero. I know only a few of the common names and recall absolutely none of the proper scientific labels. But I know what I like. I can describe my favorite varieties in detail to illustrate why they bring me such joy.
I have an affection for the shallow and fragile, simple shell layers that glisten and shine like glass. They flake off the insides of the ever common oyster shells, I think. These flakes or lightweight shiny sparklers are a dull gray, almost transparent when wet but shine like pearls once dried by the sun. They're low on depth and come from modest means, kinda like the clueless white trash of the shell world. The most fragile of my trove, these pretties are easily crushed or chipped by contact with heftier varieties or if held too tightly, given too much pressure. Like rose petals, they are easily ruined unless handled properly. None-the-less, I think these simple ones are still gorgeous and necessary to my collection.
Probably my most favorite shells, though, are the twisted and broken ones. The remains of hermit crab homes have crumbled and opened up to reveal the inner sanctum. Inside they display a myriad of colors and you can see their most striking beauty is deep within. I am drawn to the curly lines and simplicity of their coils. They offer a contrast to all the other musselly shells resting haphazardly together. I imagine these pieces as having had a lot of living before I found them. Their glory days behind them these experienced stunners are maps of utter tragedy or other crushing blows which turned them into one of the abundant "broken" to be seen strewn about everywhere. They're overlooked, forgotten, discarded and undervalued by most shell seekers. I am looking for them. I appreciate their history and mystery. They almost have a wisdom to them and I appreciate their longevity and survival. These twisted and broken losers have the most to offer.

I also like to stand and stare into the dregs line long enough to see the minuscule sweeties mixed among the sand grains. Barely big enough to notice at first glance; the teeniest ones mirror their larger counterparts on a scale meant for the miniature world of fairies. I have a special selection of these in a dedicated dish beside my bed far away from this place. The tiny version allows the occasional mind escape I need to endure my long distance love with the shore. Sometimes we can gain the most from the smallest of things.
And of course, who doesn't like the perfect, unbroken ones? Most common is the tendency toward the quest for ones without mars or chips since their beauty is obvious and they are accepted as "rare". So, I still concede to the loveliness of the pristine but find myself more drawn to the storied and seasoned out there.
Additionally, I am drawn to the textured bits and surf tumbled smooth and visually interesting pieces. I marvel at the distinct patterns and shapes within the biological designs. Sand dollars contain this quality in spades. The porous nature of their chalky composition makes for gorgeous layers and cross cuts
when the giant saucer sized shells are broken and divided into segments. Finding a lone "angel" from the center interior is always a serendipitous treat. These are actually the vertebrae of the creature, as I understand it but I've always thought of them as "angels" because they look like they have wings. The distinctive "V" shape provides the contrasting element for finding them among the throngs. I love the clandestine spotting of these super rare keepers. Today, the one I found sat perched on a crest of sand all by its lonesome.
I almost forgot to mention the driftwood, a must-have for a truly well rounded collection. I prefer small pieces but that is only because I am limited on the space in which to keep my finds. I can appreciate any sized pieces of these water logged, sand sculpted and smoothed masterpieces. I merely limit myself to collecting token gems. I enjoy imagining the journey each one must have endured to arrive at the destination. I like the color striations and the genuine honesty of their state of being. The real journeymen of my beach findings, I love to acquire a random twisted twig, chock full of authenticity and earthiness that only a drifter could embody.
Yet, I will admit I still haven't been able to resist an unbroken whole sand dollar throughout all my time as a collector. When it comes to fragile, intricate perfection and delicacy, it doesn't get more precious than these, and the smaller, the better. Like the sea petals, the tiny ones are extremely fragile and need special care. The fact that they comprise the remains of an entire organism intrigues me. They are complicated and textured inside and out. I like to think only I can appreciate and care for them as they deserve, so I collect them for safe keeping.
I guess it's fair to say I like my shells like I like my people. For me, it isn't all about the perfect appearance, unbroken states or unmarred surfaces that appeals. I am looking for traits like history, depth, authenticity and wisdom among them. As if a line were forming just to be counted among the lucky few... I'll make invitation. Come all ye twisted and broken, textured, complicated, drifty and flaky masses, my elite affection awaits only thee. Tuh!

Seasoned local with tourist sunburn

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