Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Collecting Shells

Collecting Shells

Do you collect seashells?  Each one is a happy memory of a day at the beach, wondrous search and discovery of beauties big and small, bringing a few home.  Shine them with baby oil, put them in a bowl, so beautiful, precious, fragile, strong, broken, whole. 

These shells I just found last week in an old box high on a back shelf, carefully wrapped in 1977 pages of the Daily Cal newspaper.  I was living in Berkeley then, in seminary.  In the 40 years since then I have moved 5 or 6 times, but I never unpacked the box.  Some of these shells I recognize from Martha’s Vineyard, others the Jersey shore, and I think some are from my mother’s extensive worldwide shell collection, Florida, Africa.   After she died, age 54, in 1979, we donated all her shells to the American Museum of Natural History, where she had worked in their shell department. 

But if these are from 1977 or before, I now have a few of Ma’s shells!  There is no greater joy in heaven than when the lost is found – rejoice with me!

Wondrous circles of beauty, survivors of mighty surf, memories of a day of exploration, legacies of barefoot walking on the sand beside my mother, from the 1950’s to her death.  She taught me their names – moon shell, mussel, conch, sand dollar, periwinkle, oyster, scallop, razor clam. 

To find them again was like finding her again.

These days shell collecting is discouraged by the good folks at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Point Lobos State Reserve, – leave them on the beach so they can make more sand, which is actually tiny pieces of shells.  Remember you are shells and to shells you (sand) will return.  They are skeletons, legacies.  They are subjects, not objects.  I get it and I agree.  I no longer bring shells home.  Nor buy them in tourist shops.

But I am grateful to find these ones again, and I will treat them with honor and gratitude.  Thanks, Ma.
________________ – come for time on the Monterey Bay, on your own or with a group, and learn about how God loves the ocean and wants us to love it better. Youth group service trips, adult pilgrimages.  We will see lovely shells, and leave them alone.  Read these Wednesday devotionals on ocean stewardship and spirituality here or at

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