Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Sheller's Lesson

Greetings from Marco Island, Florida!

Since I am writing this post from the lovely island, I thought it might be appropriate to use a beach metaphor in today's reflective writing.

Since my first trip to Florida in 1984, I have been an avid sheller. ( A "sheller" is a seeker of seashells, also sometimes called "beachcombers", looking for those treasures from the sea.)

You know the type - I'm sure you've seen us if you've ever been on a good shelling beach. We walk slowly, back bent, scanning the beach carefully with our eyes, looking for telltale signs of a fertile shell bed.

We carry plastic baggies and perhaps a small shovel or brush, and we giggle with glee over every single find. It's like being a child at Christmas once again, when every small package makes us squeal with delight.

As I walked the beach late this afternoon, after two days of wild weather on the island, I found that it was a sheller's wonderland. Shells of all types and size littered the sand, including many still hosting creatures (dead and alive) in their interiors.

So today, my first day of my time here at one of my favorite spots in the world, I was presented with a beautiful gift, seemingly just for me.

Today, the weather was brisk and windy, and as I stepped out onto the beach, I began to feel the wind blowing my stress away. The combination of water and wind, my own personal primary and secondary elements, swept over me and soothed my aching and weary body, regenerating my soul.

As I started down the beach, I found myself naturally falling into my shelling behavior, even though it has been five years since my last visit here. (Note to self: five years is way too long between visits...) This unconscious behavior was so natural and instinctive, that I almost didn't recognize that I was doing it.

And as I scanned the sand, marveling at the wide array of shells, I was struck by the lesson that we can take from this simple act of shelling. For you see, a sheller must exhibit patience, dedication, caution, and respect in the process of finding the treasures of the sea.

Each individual sheller has his or her own agenda. Some collect only the large, perfect shells, like the familiar Conch shells that lay scattered along the beach this afternoon, still housing their animals.

Others look for the greatest variety of shells they can find, looking for one of everything, to create a library of sorts of their own shells.

Personally, I have my own favorites. I pondered this as I walked today. I have a fondness for the "turret" or "worm" shells - the tubular, scrolled, and delicate small shells that are much more difficult to find.

I tend not to like the bivalve shells, though the beach is literally covered in bivavles of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I decided today that the reason I shy away from these bivalves is that you rarely find a complete (yet empty) bivalve. Somehow, I find that sad.

So, there I was today, within five minutes of gaining the beach, and I looked down (in my natural shelling pose), and what lay at my feet but a gorgeous turret shell, nestled deep in a pile of broken bivalves. It seemed to be a beacon to me, a message that I was on the right path.

So, this is the message of the sheller. It is not a task to be rushed, but one that must be approached with diligence, care, and patience. The bent back walk of the sheller is not easy, and the result can be pain and discomfort, but the result, when we take the pains to do it correctly, can be extremely rewarding.

Life is like this, too.

Sometimes we get so busy digging through the bivalves of life (all those annoying details of life that distract us from our real path or purpose) that we don't see the beautiful turret shell lying just at our feet. If we don't step carefully, we will crush it, or miss it completely.

Sometimes, too, we can be looking so intently at a problem that we can't see the solution right in front of us.

I passed a large bed of shells today, scanning it intently, looking for my favorite shells, and was distracted by a gull who laughed at me (it was a laughing gull...). I looked away to respond to him, and when my eyes returned to the spot I had just searched, I found the best shell of the day, right in front of me.

So, for you, my friends, I am sharing this lesson. Treat life like a beach full of shells. Keep searching for those treasures that lay hidden, waiting to be exposed.

Yet if we rush, or if we are distracted, we might miss that most precious find.

Patience is the key.

Be prepared. Keep your tools handy. And be ever observant for those telltale signs that will guide you naturally to your finds.

Oh, and remember to let your elements help cleanse you, as mine have cleansed me today.


Anonymous said...

This is beautiful, Chris, and I'm glad the Elements are doing their job.


Miles said...

great analogy chris!