Gather a shell…And listen at its lips:
They sigh…The echo of the whole sea’s speech.”
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
I must admit I’ve been a collector. As a child I stuffed my pocket with sandy shells. Gleaned from the foam left on the shore, they lined my window sill in pristine white solitude. The mussel shells did not entice me. Their somber countenance of greys and black made me think of shadowed pirate caves where water came in the with tide and trapped the unsuspecting.
And the song of the sea enticed me to memorize Sea Fever by John Masefield, to sing sea chanties and swim in the frigid Pacific off Oregon shores.
On a shelf in my grandmother’s living room a large conch shell lay dreaming I’d pick it up. And I did. Every time my feet hit the wooden floor of her cottage I’d listen and dream.
Sea shell, sea shell,
Sing of the things,
You know so well.
The shell held the sound of waves in its hidden passages. And dreams. The sound of water licking the shore was soporific and lead to dreams of dancing like Debbie Reynolds or acting in a Shakespearian tragedy speaking lines I knew would move hearts.
My imagination painted dusty white beaches where warm, azure water kissed the shores and palm trees whispered. And accolades followed my performances. Dreams that were more than life sized catapulted me to join the chorus line of actors. But life interrupted and the shell seeker became a searcher for truth. It was found in a person. His name is Jesus. He was from Nazareth, an obscure place on the world’s map. My hometown was a mere dot too. As am I. Yet. God knit me together for His purposes. He said that this person, made of sinews, bones, corpuscles and a steady heartbeat, is loved. He demonstrated it. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. KJV
As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends,
All my dreams,
Come back to me.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Longfellow’s poem is true for me. The sea restores me, as if God is whispering His merciful love in the wind, as changeable waves cast sparkling shells on a gritty shore.