We recently spent time on a glorious beach full of shells of all kinds of shapes and colors and sizes. I really love shells and rocks and driftwood and glass; those things that come from the water and end up on the shore, polished and smooth. I tend to walk up and down the expanse of sand, my feet meeting with the quiet, bubbly fizz with each coming and going wave, eyes down, searching for anything that catches my eye.
On one of the beaches I walked upon, a woman who was also picking up shells asked me, "What are you searching for?" I told her, "Anything interesting."
I'm quite sure most people would look at my collection of rocks and shells from various beaches I've visited and fail to see anything special. While finding a perfectly colored, unbroken shell is a thrill and certainly a keeper, I also love the broken shells, the ones full of tiny holes, the ones with barnacles attached and the peculiarly shaped and smoothed rocks just as well.
The innards of the twirling shells, exposing eye-catching curves and unexpected colors, polished so smooth and soft are some of my favorite finds. And the big white clam shells, riddled with thousands of little holes are so odd and beautiful.
This beach in Florida was new to us and we found quite a collection of "interesting" shells. And as I searched and picked up shells and studied them, making the decision of whether to keep or discard, I thought about how, like the broken or imperfect or common shells, people are often discarded, forgotten, left behind because they are perceived as broken or flawed or just plain, uninteresting and unattractive.
And yet, we would do well remembering the rough and ugly oyster who can produce the magnificent and valued pearl within. The insides can be surprising.
There was a type of shell I spotted fairly often on the sand with a whitish, blackish exterior, appearing to have been a black shell, with its outer coating having been partially rubbed off; nothing too special, but on the flip side, the inside, it is the purest white with a thick rim, giving the impression that it's the inside of a coconut. Time and again, the bright, pure white of the inside of this shell surprised me.
Over and over, the boys' attention was caught by the iridescent shimmers of what we discovered to be the Pen Shell. The outside is brownish, rough and really not attractive, but turn it over and you're lost in a sea of deep blue, purple, green and gold hues reminiscent of a peacock's plumes, as exquisite as Tiffany stained glass.
The insides can be surprising.
Sometimes people are rough, unpolished, even unattractive to our ever discerning eye, on the outside. And so often, we stop there failing to look below the surface to see the beauty, the complicated design, the delicate curves, the splendid colors.
So many of the whelks and cones and tulips and crowns and conchs, the twirly shells, found washed up on the shore are broken or tips worn away or dissected down the middle. These shells are now exposed. Their intricate twists and turns open for all to see. Within these shells, I see beautiful blooming flowers, impossibly steep and dramatically curving staircases and intriguing symmetry. I could look at these shells for days on end and not tire of them.
People are like this too. Some have been broken or worn down or cut to the core, but their beauty remains and cannot be extinguished by hardship, heartbreak or disappointment. These are the kind of people who draw you in and you're happy to just gaze upon them and be near them; for they are beautiful inside and out, no matter how many times they've been pushed to and fro and knocked about by life's waves.
I found loads of jingles, scallops and clams, all of striking colors; bright whites, shimmery silvers, lively oranges, varying degrees of reds, deep purples. At first, they looked whole and perfect, but then upon further inspection, I could see a small chink out of the edge or on the flip side a barnacle was attached or a small hole had been bored through the middle. But I still came home with quite a few of these "imperfect" shells.
After all, who among is without flaws? We all have things that make us unique, whether it's a scar or birth mark or personality quirk or a signature hairstyle or misguided style efforts that are easily seen and readily identified. Of course, we also have flaws or damage that is not so easily seen too. And upon first glance, we seem perfect, just right, to those around us. And so, when the tiny missing piece or the extra baggage appears, hopefully, we still seem perfect to our friends and family who know and love us, regardless of those things that make us a bit flawed or quirky.
The thing is that there is beauty everywhere. One must only slow down, focus on those who surround you, open your eyes to all the lovely things within your sights, and be brave enough to peel back the outer shells of those who seem hard to love or plain, always fading away into the background. For the insides can be surprising. And there's always more character in the hole riddled, barnacle covered creatures.
So, I'll keep searching for interesting finds on beaches and keep trying to remember that sometimes the broken and scarred ones are the best finds, on the beach and in life. Over and out…