The early sun casts impossibly long shadows as we walk along the beach. The night tide has raked the sand clean and smooth except for the occasional stranded limpet or pebble, trails left in their wake like comets. Our wet footsteps are the first of the day, a rare honour.

The sea hushes reassuringly while the mischievous wind nips at our ears and cheeks. In the distance, craggy, little isles emerge from the waves like the tips of dormant giants, taken as refuge to a hundred, squabbling, flapping gulls and gannets.

Yet despite all these grand surroundings, my gaze is bent to my feet, scanning the sandy carpet for treasure – by which I mean seashells. Little silver and ebony perriwinkles, whelks drained of all their colour, razor clams, starburst limpets and little mussels, their husks fading from rich purple to delicate grey like a starless, evening sky. Unable to take them all I search out the most flawless or most unusual and pocket them, knowing that by the time we get home they won’t look the same with their salty shine dried away. A million tiny, perfect works of art just strewn across this area like some almighty gallery.

What strikes me most of all is that this is just one little beach on one relatively small island. Our world must be filled with incomprehendible numbers of places like this, littered with these tine treasures, slowly being ground into grit by waves and feet, never to be seen in that form again. I hold up a rose coloured dog whelk to consider it and suddenly it is I that feels like the tiny one.

Published in: on January 22, 2011 at 2:26 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. What an amazing essay, so perfect and complete with that final line.

    I chastise myself sometimes when I’m walking the beach, staring down looking for pebbles when the water and horizon are so spectacular. Every room in my house has jars full of polished bits of shells and smoothed pebbles.

    Thanks for expressing it all so well.

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