Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I dread any kind of shopping in a tourist area — other than food shopping. It seems like every time you walk into a “gift” shop, the place is filled with the same cheap crap from China just stamped with the location name where you are. Enough landfill fodder already.

The souvenirs I do like are, oddly, rocks. Or in this case, shells that have been worn by the waves back to flat rocks. Some folks walk the beach in search of that one, huge perfect shell. I used to do that. Now, I see the beauty in the thousands of bits of shells, edges worn smooth by years and tides, on their way back to being just sand.

It fits somehow, these bits of shells worn smoother by time. I see the beauty in them now that I never did before.

The other things I collect are photos and memories. The best of these, for this trip, would be my nightly runs on the beach with the Kiddo. She has this way of running, somewhere between a hop, a skip and a run. In sheer joy, her arms spiral backward in big loops. A friend of ours calls it the “Butterfly.”

I joined my child, just the two of us, on the beach, doing our crazy butterfly run of joy as the sun would begin to set. For those few captured moments, we were set free, only joy and the moment containing us. It’s a memory I will keep for a lifetime. In fact, if that is the last bit that flashes before my eyes in my dying moment, well, that would be just alright.

There are other memories that come to me anytime I am near the ocean. So many from the time when I lived in the islands and worked in marine research. It was an amazing time, absolutely. It was also a time that happened because I was running away, too. There were years of family problems and ugliness, years that culminated in my father’s head injury. Months of life and death daily, four months of coma, a year of rehabilitation, years of recovery and adjustment to permanent changes. A very long and very difficult time.

Part of the reason I left home for the ocean was to heal. To get as far away from that reality as I could. Somehow all the memories, good and bad, as well as my own futile attempt to become a full time environmental journalist got all bundled up and locked away.

I see now that this was wrong. There is a lot of painful stuff back there, and in my pursuit to put it all behind me I forgot that there are a lot of valuable things I could offer my child from that stash. Life lessons, definitely, but she will get many of these on her own even as I try to shield her from it all.

There are lessons in there I need to apply to make me a better parent. Demons be damned, I need the gift of that experience as a guide forward. For the Kiddo's benefit.

And there are also little things. Like “this is a horseshoe crab. It’s not a true crab ...” Or what the creatures are that made each of the shells we collect. What the ocean means to the earth. And why we should all run like butterflies up the beach every single chance we get.

These are my souvenirs. They are bits and fragments worn by time, beautiful in their own way. These are what I have to share.


Chiot's Run said...

I used to pick up a rock wherever I went and write where it was from on it. When I was younger and we traveled out west I collected dirt from each place we went and layered it in a jar (I think I have 25 states in my jar - yes it was a 6 week long car trip out west)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I agree that photos and memories are the best things to keep. Thanks for a beautiful post.

Rachel said...

you know, in the Jewish tradition, when you visit a grave, you place a small stone on the tombstone. I guess it's a reminder that someone visited, or a souvenir or something like that.