I had a very eye-opening experience on one of my many shelling expeditions to the southern point of the beach on Marco Island. The southern point of the beach, which, to an un-trained eye, may only seem to be a peaceful cape, was marked by large boulders creating a barrier that protected the calm beach from strong crashing waves and a fierce current. The point was a haven for snappers, pompano, sharks, swooping seagulls, and diving pelicans. All were there to take advantage of the massive schools of baitfish cornered into the rocks by the harsh environment. The point’s geographic location and shape attracts so much wildlife that it is literally an ecosystem within itself, but there was much more to this cape than just being a dynamic demonstration of how the food chain works. The crashing waves on the shore embedded the white sand with colorful seashells. This made the southern point of Marco Island a beautiful area for collecting shells, and that’s exactly why we were there! As I walked up and down the shore, getting up close and personal with the sand to be sure that not one beautiful specimen goes unnoticed, it wasn’t before long ‘til I had filled a small cup with an array of shapely and colorful shells. I, at the time, had been quite proud of the selection of the little shells I had amassed. Then, just as swiftly as this sentence transitions… All of the sudden a powerful wave SMASHED down tossing me into the shore like some piece of driftwood the sea returned to the land. As I stood up and collected myself I realized that the wave had swept away my collection of shells. Back into the ocean, the wave washed the variety of vivid colors and unique shapes I had meticulously gathered out of my sight.
At first my mood was not so pleasant, needless to say… I was pissed. I kept thinking about all the truly special and unique shells that were taken away from me. I even diligently sifted through the stirred up sand as more and more waves kept crashing in, but they were lost and I was forced to accept that. After a few minutes, once I decided to begin a new collection, I came to terms with the fact. As I continued to replay the event in my head I came to a mind-blowing realization of what had just happened! I had come to a somewhat personified understanding of the ocean. I did not “lose” the shells – the ocean just took them back! The waves returned them to the sea. Looking at the situation from the point of view I had become conscious of brought a smile to my face. The vibrant and beautiful shells I had unearthed were like gifts to me from the sea. The shells traveled through hundreds of years of tides and currents to one day be discovered and appreciated by myself. Not only did the ocean present me with their beauty and elegance, it had also gifted me the adventure to their discovery, the excitement of the quest, and the joy of finding a tiny multicolored spiral of calcium carbonate that was once home to a creature hundreds of years ago. From whichever perspective I looked at the gift that was given to me, I only found more and more solace as to why they were taken away. I realized that those shells would have done no good in a jar at home. The sea took them back – so maybe they could provide a beautiful new home for some crustaceous creature, or maybe put a smile on some other fellow’s face upon their finding, or maybe the sea just took them back – because that is where they belong.
I noticed some interesting things on my most recent vacation to Marco Island. I observed some things about life and nature (and the link between the two…) that have inspired me to write a couple new posts on my unfortunately neglected blog. I spent most of my time in Marco at the beach, fishing, taking afternoon naps falling asleep to the sound of the waves, and I also was able to feel like a kid again while enthusiastically searching for shells on the beach and in the water. The Gulf Coast of Florida is known for having some of the most beautiful shells in the world. Violent late night storms coming in from the gulf bring vibrant lightening displays and earth-shaking thunder, but the storms also bring some beautiful things to the beach as well. The next morning you can walk the sand and find dozens of interesting and beautifully unique shells to stuff your pockets with. Many may even be too big to fit in your swim trunks! Needless to say, it’s pretty easy to spot some really stunning specimens early in the mornings on the white shorelines of Marco Island. But if you’re not an early bird and wake up just as the sun is reaching its zenith in the blue cloudless sky you probably won’t find very many nice shells at all. The early-risers have most likely already scooped up all the big easy-to-spot conchs, cones, whelks, and tulips and the rest have been swept, by an outgoing tide, back into the sea. This is where I observed something special, something extraordinary. If you stroll up and down the beach with your back arched and your head down you’ll probably come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to be found. “All the pretty shells are gone.” You couldn’t be any farther from the truth. The fact is that searching for beautiful shells is a lot like searching for beauty in life. You are not going to see any shells from five or six feet above the ground while walking rather swiftly back to you condo because you’re starting to chafe. If you really want to find beauty you must slow down and even stop every once in a while, to get real close to the piles of what may only seem like broken shells. To find the most beautiful shells, no matter what time of day, you need to squat down or just plop your butt down in the sand and that’s when you’ll really find what you are looking for. You must take a moment, or two, to just sit and enjoy the adventure of looking for shells. I know, this is crazy – you don’t have any time to stop and just look real closely at the mountains of shells piled down the shoreline. I mean come on, you’re on vacation and time is running out, no time to stop and smell the roses! But it’s not about smelling the roses; it’s about noticing that the roses are even there! Only when you slow down and pay attention to all the beauty that is around you will you find life’s treasures.
Once you find the joy and peacefulness in just the search you will realize that it does not matter whether or not you find the shells. You realize that you don’t find fulfillment within the discovery of a shell; you find fulfillment within DISCOVERY, within ADVENTURE, and the qualities in life that are not material. These qualities are feelings of excitement and happiness. In life, to realize the beauty that is within all things, you must go slow, be patient, and pay no attention to time or your hurry to do something else. Find joy in what you are doing… and to your surprise – you will find that the moment you begin to see life (searching for shells) in that way – all of the sudden you will start discovering beautiful shells all around you.
During my summer of peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of college life at FSU I have been led down some very wonderful paths… A path of culinary exploration: through my own cooking and that of some great (and horrible) restaurants. I managed to attain a job in a struggling economy and EXCEL in a position that was, as some could say, way out of my league! I got to show others (the haters) that with my positive thinking and steadfast determination, even an 18-year-young college student with absolutely NO job experience CAN succeed in a position fit for a middle-aged man with a 4-year degree, contractor’s license, and twenty years of experience… Think I’m joking? The most important thing I learned this summer is that all it takes, to achieve anything you want, is believing in yourself. Call it cliché if you’d like, but the foundation of success is determination and when you have that, you can have anything. I also learned the importance of enjoying and living in the moment that you are in, because if you don’t it will have flashed before your eyes. I also have learned that if you spend too much time thinking about those moments you lost you will only be giving up more moments of time that you should be cherishing! So living in the moment – something I have rambled upon before in this blog – is something I have learned how to do pretty efficiently this summer. Many of the life lessons and spiritual understandings I have stumbled upon in the past four months of my life have come out of a number of mind-boggling books I have had the pleasure to dive into this summer. Reading has been something I have, for a long time, disliked but now reading is something I find to be very peaceful, meditative, and inspiring. I think the most positive thing you can do with your time is to constantly be educating and improving yourself, although you should always be happy with the way you are, there is an infinite capacity for self-improvement. The root of the word self-improvement is often viewed in a negative context, but when you look deeply into the word improvement, it couldn't be any more positive. When you acknowledge that you are going to improve something - you are saying that you will take something good and make it even better. What a refreshing way to view the development of your self through your life. Now that this “best summer of my life” is drawing to a close I can happily look back and say there was not a moment I regret or can’t consider well spent! Anytime you can observe that about a period in your life there are only three words that can describe it: SUCEESS, SUCCESS, SUCCESS!