Thursday, June 3, 2010

Making Friends (or Beach Bliss, Day Two)

This is a first for Halfglassistan: a literal transcription of my journal, but the first draft needed no editing. Day two, morning one, of beach therapy, in which I say my ritual hello to the beach:

5:30 a.m., Saturday, May 29
Carolina Beach, Cape Fear, North Carolina

Sunrise. The wind is brisk. It's unimaginable that it's this cool in May, much less June, but I love it. Will be interested to see how warm (hot?) it is later on the beach. Amazing how, just like the sound of the surf magically transforms the environs once one crosses the path of buildings, so too changes the temperature. It is, without a doubt, another world. And, one I have longed for and needed for far too long. It was more than worth the wait.

6:30 a.m.
Back on our deck

I have not been one to gather shells since I was a little girl, except for the one or two that would always be pocketed as a tangible souvenir on the last day of beach therapy. This morning, however, I have returned with no fewer than nine. They, like this beach that is not a grand strand, are rough and weathered. The sand here is amazingly soft at the dunes, more powdery than any other I recall crossing. This fine, fragile base, however, quickly gives way to  coarser, sturdier grains. This, too, is unlike any other I've known. Mixed in with the impersonal taupe I'm expecting is not the familiar reddish hue of Georgia clay, nor the pure yellow color of the cornmeal I used to make a desert diorama in the seventh grade, yet some color all its own that is, at once, evocative of both of those references. Stepping further, I am immediately struck by an infusion of black and slate into the palette, to include random clumps of clay. 

The tinges of black remind me of the sandbox in my Nana and Papa's yard. My sister, cousins — and all the neighborhood kids with whom we graciously shared Nana and Papa — and I would dig as deep as we could to reach the cool, wet sand deep in the sunken site. As deep as Dairy Queen spoons and empty Peanut-Buster Parfait cups and Pringle's cans would allow our stubby (but resourceful) little hands, that is. We'd catch just a glimpse of the rich black Calumet soil, know we were that much closer to China — then quickly funnel it back in the illicit hole before Papa spotted it. Here on the Atlantic coast — a thousand miles away on the map (and a million in my mind) — the juxtaposition is both jarring and delightful.

The shells I have arranged before me now — aligned, from smallest to largest, in a straight line on the on the rail of our balcony (a formation that has me instantly questioning my obsessive compulsive reflexes that so easily reveal themselves) — are happy finds. Like all the other revelations this morning beach has represented, these shells are out of context with my expectations. I am first struck by the large number of intact oyster shells. Really? I've never seen some so large and/or prolific outside of on an empty platter in a bar — or the whitewashed masses found outside said joint. Where are oyster beds? I never thought to wonder, but I suppose I always imagined they must be near rocks — all the better to have allowed that first brave soul to crack them open. As this shoreline progresses north, it becomes more rugged. Perhaps these oysters' former homes have traveled down some current's path.

While I did leave the oyster chunks in the sand, the others I've carried back were also surprising. It was still high tide, so anything other than chunks and chips of what were once pristine exoskeletons of marine mollusks is rare and special. So to find an intact specimen as large as my palm was amazing. It's not perfect — in the traditional sense, anyway — you'd never see this piece in a souvenir shop. But I wouldn't want that anyway. Trite, unoriginal, and as unreal to me as if it were pressed in a mold, a store-bought shell is like a silk flower: intended to be a beautiful facsimile of what nature produces, but in an immutable, homogenized form. Isn't that the very antithesis of nature? Not my shells. They are hard and weathered, but solid. They have substance, weight and undeniable strength. They are unapologetically imperfect, but proudly resilient. There is beauty in their scarred outsides, and an exquisite elegance and grace in their polished insides.

I like my shells. Were they people, I'd be proud to know them.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading about your beach therapy. The Beach is always a good place to rejuvenate or reflect on things. Maybe it's the sound of the ocean that just allows us to mellow out and just be.


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