Day 20 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Shell

One of my favorite writers/authors is journalist Bob Greene. During the summer, some of my favorite books make their way into my reading rotation, four of which are by Greene.

One of his books is When We Get To Surf City: A Journey Through America In Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship and Dreams. In a nutshell, the book chronicles his time spent touring with the legendary Jan and Dean and Surf City All Stars during a few summers.

Greene perfectly encapsulated both the idea of holding on to each little piece of summer and the importance of living our life’s best moments. From pages 313-314:

Once someone told me that we should regard the best moments in our lives as pebbles in a jar. The assumption should be that the pebbles are finite – even if we can’t count them by looking into the jar, we should assume that one day they will run out. We should withdraw them with care, one by one, never doing it by rote or distractedly. If we withdraw them too rapidly, we are being greedy, and will hasten the day when they are gone; if we hoard them, if we are miserly in keeping them in the jar, then we will rob ourselves of the experiences the good things should give us.

So it is with summers. If all of life were summer, then our world would have no texture, no context. Summer would not taste the way it does if we thought it would last forever. There’s no perfect way to remove the pebbles, no foolproof timetable. The closest we can come to perfection is to know just how precious those pebbles are, and to value each one.

I know that Jan [Berry] did. More than anyone I think I have ever known, he never took a single one of those pebbles for granted. He withdrew each one of them from life’s jar with gratitude, and with love.

The plane lifted off. Savor every day, every summer night. (Greene, Bob. When We Get To Surf City: A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship and Dreams. New York: St. Marten’s Press, 1998.)

When I want to really remember a moment, I will take a seashell or rock from where I am, write the date on it with a Sharpie when I get home, and put it in my seashell memory jar.  In addition to taking the pebbles out and using them, like Greene describes, I also add memories to my jar.

This is My Shell Jar, Full of Memories and Experiences

In my jar are dated treasures from walks with my nephew, a rock from Stonehenge, some pebbles from Ireland, a few shells from Florida and our own beaches, and more. Each one holds a special place in my heart.

I am eternally grateful for the shells and pebbles I have spent, the memories I have collected, and the shells and pebbles left in my jar.

My wish to you is that YOU savor every day and every summer night.  Use a shell, spend a pebble, then replace it with a memory.

Author’s note: This was originally posted in August of 2015. I updated it today, 7/20/16. 

“Sea” My Gift from the Sea

I have been thoroughly enjoying summer and everything it has to offer.  Last week was a whirlwind of activity, seeing many new places and making memories with my friends and family.  After the busy week, I was longing for some solace, so I decided to watch the sunrise up at the beach.

On Sunday, August 2, 2015, I set my alarm for 5:10 am.  After quickly getting ready, I was at one of my favorite spots, Osborne Avenue Beach in Bay Head, NJ, by 5:30 am.  Sunrise wasn’t until 5:55 am, but I didn’t want to miss twilight’s opening act.

I walked down the platform to the sand, sat on one of the bulkheads, and took it all in.  The ever changing colors of the sky reflected in the ocean, on the homes, and on the sand.  At least 20 underwing moths flew in from over the ocean one at a time, many of which landed right on me.

Like a little kid, I get excited when the sun is approaching the horizon, and as it did, I was shouting “Here it comes!” in my head.  Two surfers entered the water right before the sun broke through, which made for some wonderful photos and mental memories.

There it was, the sun, and the start of another day here on Earth.  I took a deep breath and said, “Thank you for this day.”

As the sun’s height grew, I got up and began walking south in search of a sea shell or a piece of sea glass to remember my morning.  Whenever I go to the beach, I find a shell, write the date and beach location on it, and put it in my “nature’s memories” jar (note: my jar used to be known as my “shell memory jar,” but if I go to a non-beachy location, I’ve started doing the same thing with stones).

The ocean water was very warm and comfortable, and I walked along the edge where the wash surged onto the beach, letting my feet enjoy the remnants of the salt water waves.  The air was permeated with that wonderful salt-air scent, and I wish I could bottle up that smell, or make a candle with that exact scent because there’s nothing else in the world like it.  I drank it in, taking more than a few, deep breaths.

I paused for a moment and looked to the southeast horizon, thinking of those two Florida teens, Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, who have been missing at sea since July 24, and hoped that they are still out there, alive and well, just waiting to be found.  I said a quiet prayer for their safe return, and continued walking.

There weren’t many shells on the beach, even at the highest point on the sand where the overnight tide had reached.  No shells and no sea glass, just a few pebbles and sand crabs. More underwing moths made their way landward, and again, a few landed right on me.  I don’t know where they came from, but my husband later told me he also had them on the boat when fishing Friday and Sunday.

After walking two blocks, I still did not have a souvenir.

Something finally caught my eye, something tumbling in the waves, and at first I thought it was a piece of red brick.  It is nothing new to find bricks, duct work, or pieces of shingle here and there, as parts of homes STILL wash up as a result of Superstorm Sandy, which was almost 3 years ago.  However, as I approached the item, I could see clearly that wasn’t a piece of brick.

I bent down to pick it up.  It was shaped like an arrowhead or a shield, about one inch long and 1/2 an inch wide, with no jagged edges.  The one side was very smooth, and when I turned it over, I gasped and was filled with what I can only describe as awe. On the back was a cross, or what to me looked like a cross. I held it tightly in my hand, overcome for a moment with emotion.

After posting a photo of what I found, someone commented that it was nothing more than a piece of tile, the back of it beveled so that the mortal will stick better (hence the cross shape), and obviously another piece of one of Sandy’s house victims.

However, I see it much differently.

It is my tile cross.  My gift from the sea.

And the message that immediately came to mind when I picked up and grasped my tile cross for the first time was this:  Have Faith.

Anybody can find a shell.  Anybody can find a piece of sea glass.

But I found my tile cross.  My gift from the sea.

That’s pretty profound.

Have faith.

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My Tile Cross…My Gift from the Sea