I just got back from a Labor Day vacation at the beach with my sister, Nancy, and some friends. I often spend this particular holiday at the beach and there’s a good reason for this. It’s still warm enough for bathing suits and “laying out” in the sun, but it’s also slightly cooler weather for relaxing outside after dark with a glass of wine. Occurring the first Monday every September, Labor Day is the last hurrah for tourist season, but trust me: we did our part to help the merchants there.
I mean, here we were: five friends on a fabulous girlfriend getaway, doing what we do best: shopping in beach stores and specialty shops, dining out at popular restaurants, loading up on groceries, staying up late, giggling – then sleeping in late, groaning, “I’m too tired to get up!” We even hosted our own Blue Moon Party down on the water. This was our last blue moon – a time when the full moon appears twice in one calendar month – for three years. We friends sat out on rocking chairs on the deck of an uber-trendy oceanfront café, waiting a full hour for the table of five, but it was well worth the wait. (If you’ve never had horseradish mashed potatoes, you must!) And expectedly, everyone was snapping pictures of the gorgeous full moon, as well as their crazy-fun friends.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the seashore the next morning. There were no seashells to be found. What the heck is going on, I wondered? The first full day there I walked an hour and came back empty-handed. I remember a time in Pawleys Island when I found dozens of baby’s ear shells in one afternoon. I’d find a few augers, though that was rarer, and sometimes keyhole limpets and lion’s paws. I even found small hard shells from crabs when it was their molting season, but I always found some type of shell – if nothing else, clam and oyster shells and cockle shells. But here in N.C. – Topsail Island to be exact – the beach was void of shells. I was puzzled and even a little sad, truth be told.
On the second day (and also the third day,) with more determination, I searched even harder. I spent a serious chunk of time inspecting the gray, compacted sand until my eyes burned, and alternately leaning over and squatting down until my back and knees ached. Still no shells. But guess what I found instead? Pebbles! Beautiful, smooth and polished, and there were thousands! Once I resigned myself to the fact that there would be NO shells to collect, I began to appreciate the pebbles for how special and decorative they could be. For instance, think Pier 1: I’ll find a shallow bowl and arrange the pebbles “just so” and place a large pillar candle in the middle – or perhaps five votive candles (always arrange things in odd numbers, the decorators tell us.) Come to find out, the color hue of the rocks was also amazing. Some were as white as snow, some were crystal clear, others were olive, gray, brown, black and gold. Mostly they were oval, but a few were perfectly round. A very few were almost chunky. Another idea: I could buy some old-timey Ball jars and arrange one color family in each jar, and then line them all up side-by-side.
But here’s the best idea of all for the pebbles: Linda, a retired kindergarten teacher in our group, really got into the swing of things: she picked up dozens, then told us her plans. When she reads to the children as a volunteer, “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig, she’ll give them each a pebble of their own. Isn’t that wonderful? So now I’m thinking that these beach pebbles just simply took the place of my usual shell souvenirs. Not only that, they’ll find good homes for five and six-year olds who had a friend love them enough to read them a story, but also comb the beach for a keepsake reminder. And since I love nature AND books, that seems like a win-win situation!
Ann Ipock – “Life is Short, I Wish I Was Taller” email@example.com www.annipock.com.
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