a lesson in patience; a warm memory on a cold winter day

it started way back (waaaaaay back) when i was a little girl, just old enough to go poking around beaches and picking up bits of this and that and whatever rolled up upon the shores. bottle caps and drift wood, unidentifiable blobs of rust and shards of glass tumbled and rolled to gem like perfection; all stuffed deep into my pockets like bits of buried treasure.  fists full of rocks and  pockets full of sand- i was the renegade sweet pea indiana jones. unlike the fabled indiana, however, i had an elusive treasure. a treasure so simple, yet obviously so plentiful i could not understand why it continued to evade me. i found it had become an obsession- one that has lasted over 30 years. every nook and cranny, every possible stolen second ("oh, i'll be right back, just gonna have a peak") new york, new jersey, through the carolinas, delaware, maryland, hundreds of miles of florida coastline -and that does not include the hundreds of hours logged under the water. yes, that's right.

 i have been searching for a shell for over thirty years. but not just any shell-oh no. i wanted a perfect non-clam shell. the ones with the points and the swirls and ridges and peaks, oh yes. a real shell. now. let us not dwell on the fact that, in all of my childhood innocence, i was searching for this shell for the first ten years in (sigh) fresh water inland lakes- that is not important. (silly, yes. important- no) i would let nothing deter me. year after year, visit after visit, i would wake up at the crack of dawn and take to the beaches- mission at hand. imagine my joy, when i finally reached the age of taking those 3 blocks from my great aunts house to the atlantic ocean...by myself. wonder of wonder- joy of joy- no distractions, no interruptions. just endless hours and miles of beaches to comb and search and pilfer. and yet, nothing. and though patience was never one of my greatest virtues, i refused to let disappointment take hold- knowing that one day....

 flash forward to this one year. this one day. or, i should say this one night. this one fateful night in october. A storm was brewing off  the atlantic coast of florida- later to be termed, oh so cleverly by the weather people as the *great storm with no name* of 2011.

I should mention at this point that my son, now 19, has inherited the 'call of the sea' from his mother (inherited from her father, and his father and so on)- drawn by the waves and the vastness of it all; its sad song of longing forever whispering in his ear. With a storm on the rise there is no other place you would have found him, other than the darkening shores with his feet in the sand and his eyes on the horizon. that is, no other place until he came running to the house, breathless, to grab my hand and sprint back to the beaches.

carefully we made our way back across the dunes, the sand stinging at our legs and i could see the the waves violently crashing at the shores- the mother in me hesitated as i surveyed our surroundings, wondering if this was in fact a really good idea. but, my son, still invincible, pulled me forward, and pointed. I followed his gaze down the shore line as he yelled above the wild ocean's call..."mom, it's time you found what you've been looking for!"  twinkling in the moonlight, there it was...
a perfect whelk with a left twist.

now, i would like to say that i dropped to my knees over come with tears of joy- a quest consuming 3/4 of my life- finally realized. but you see,
he had friends...

whelks and turkey wings; cowries and coquinas; little slipper shells, jingle shells and fighting conchs. they were all present and accounted for. the ocean offering them up like jewels- we picked for an hour, careful to toss the live critters back to the water-
were it not for the lightening strikes warning us to take heed, we would have been there all night.
The next morning we took our stroll past piles of palm fronds and storm debris down to the dunes but the ocean had taken back the last of her gifts (and most of the beach as well). I guess she figured that offering up 30 years worth of searching in one night was enough, and i couldn't have agreed more.
so i suppose the lesson i have learned is this. when the time is right, the universe will give you what you have been searching for. when the time is right : for the universe and you. all of those years of searching; my son running to find me to share in his treasure trove, to spend time with him digging about a beach, in the dark with the wild winds and the full moon. those moments are fleeting for a parent, if they come at all. yes, i would have to say the universe had it right in waiting. i don't think i would have appreciated it so fully any other way.
live well.
love each other.