No More

I spent my vacation last week strolling the warm Florida beaches, enjoying the sun on my face and the sound of the waves crashing against the shores.  As an avid sheller, I also spend a great deal of time scanning the shoreline for new and interesting shells to add to my collection.  I was particularly interested in finding a “King’s Crown,” since it’s a beautiful shell and one that I rarely manage to find.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I spotted a big one rolling in the waves and how quickly I plunged into the water to snatch it out.

fullsizeoutput_4ed7It was beautiful.  It was the largest I have ever found, with vibrant colors and tips that hadn’t been worn down by the sand.  I couldn’t have been happier…..until I turned it over and saw that it was still very much alive.  I wouldn’t want to take a live shell even if it was legal (it’s against the law in Florida), which meant that I wouldn’t be adding this prize to my collection.  I had to content myself with taking a quick photo of it and then gently returning the shell to the water.

At first I was very disappointed that the only good King’s Crown I found the entire week was one I couldn’t take home.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that finding a live shell was actually a good thing.  It meant that I was able to experience the fun of finding one of my favorite shells without having to figure out what exactly I was going to do with it once I got it home.  Because the truth is, I have already collected far more sea shells that I could ever display.

I collect very few things, but I have a weakness for sea shells, old glass Christmas ornaments and books.  The shells fill several vases, three lamps and four glass jars in in my house.  I’m constantly shuffling my books around to make room for new purchases, and have more books than my shelves will hold even though I routinely give some away.  As for my Christmas ornaments, I’m embarrassed to admit that when I was packing away this year’s Christmas decorations, I found an entire bin of ornaments that I had forgotten to put on my tree.  I didn’t even miss them because our two Christmas trees were loaded with ornaments anyway.

I think the time comes when even an avid collector has to admit that she has enough, no matter how much she happens to love what she is collecting.  I think that most people are naturally acquisitive, possibly programmed into our genes from the days when humans had to spend their days hunting and gathering just to survive.  But now the trick is to know when to stop acquiring more stuff and to simply appreciate the stuff that we already have.  And perhaps to even reach the point where just finding something we value is thrill enough without actually having to make it our own.

So yes, I did find the King’s Crown shell that I was so hoping to find on this vacation, even though it’s not on display in my home.  It’s still in the ocean where it belongs and that’s just fine by me.

84 thoughts on “No More

  1. This made me smile. I just added to my collection of hammered aluminum – 3 pieces that I said I wouldn’t get… but when I find them at Goodwill on half price day, well, I couldn’t resist! Besides when I hold them they bring me joy!

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    • Exactly! At least it was still alive, which is why it still looked so good. Whenever I find a live shell on the beach, I return it to the water to give it a chance to survive. I don’t know if it always works, but I feel as if at least I did my best. This shell was still rolling around in the waves, so it may or may not have gotten stranded on the beach, but I put it as far back out as I could, so I think it’s chances of living were pretty good.

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  2. I expanded the pic to see the shell as you did. Just beautiful. Loved the stripes & colors. I collected shells & rocks of interest when I was a kid. I must admit, when moving from place to place, as we did, it became burdensome. However, I do still have some of my favorites to this day. So happy for your find. -Alan

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    • Wasn’t it pretty? Such unusual coloring. As for your childhood collection, I think it’s great that you kept your favorites! I think that is the day: quality over quantity. Keeping just the best is good enough!

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    • Oh yes, whenever I find a live one, I put it back and hope it survives. There is nothing worse than seeing the live ones stranded on the beach, dying in the sun. But this one was still rolling in the waves when I grabbed it, so I bet it did live. Hope so, anyway!

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    • That’s what I’m learning as I get older….I can enjoy something without actually acquiring it. Shell collecting is fun, but the key is to go for quality rather than quantity, I think. Thanks, Svet!

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    • It is very hard. For me, I try to use things like shelf space for books, tree space for ornaments, etc. as a gauge. But it’s so easy to just get more storage and keep acquiring more things, isn’t it?

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  3. What a great way to think! You will always have the memory. You can always keep searching. Life is more about the experiences than the “stuff” – right? Glad you enjoyed your trip!

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    • Thanks, Jodi! And yes, the older I get, the more I value experiences over simply having stuff. I guess that is one of the things we learn as we age. But the trip was great fun, and I’m only sorry to be back in the cold, frigid Midwest!

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  4. delightful find and so glad he lives on … great shot!

    You are right about the collecting, there comes a time when it can take over [clutter] if you don’t start passing some on 🙂

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    • I absolutely will! It’s not really the shell that is alive, but it is the mollusk that lives in the shell that is alive, and you can see it when you turn it over (Sometimes you have to look carefully.) If it is in there and alive, then you need to return it to the ocean floor. If it is in there but dead, you still don’t want the shell because it will stink to high heaven. (The gulls tend to eat those.) The trick is to find the empty shells that wash ashore….those are the ones you can take home.

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  5. You make a great point, Ann. Because we are approaching the downsizing years, I have to think hard before I add anything to my various collections. As for your shell, that’s a beauty – I’ve never seen one like it! I think our memories of events may be stronger when we can only keep them in our minds, without a memento. Well, maybe that’s true…;)

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    • I know! When I read the shelling guides, they actually say that King’s Crown’s are common, but I have only found two of them, and both were small and somewhat faded. This was by far the prettiest, but probably because it was still alive. Even so, I like to think of it still living in the ocean!

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  6. Such a wonderful post! What a treasure to find a live shell. Isnt it wonderful to see nature like this, such a beauty. I love shells and books, too. Its nice to pass some of the collection on. It also creates wonderful memories.

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    • Yes, I’m already thinking that I need to set aside some shells for my grandson to play with when he is old enough. I bet he will love them. Thanks, Lisa!!! (And why am I not surprised that you collect shells and books? Your creativity is obvious!)

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  7. I share your passion for shells! Although I live a couple of hours from the seashore, my house is filled with baskets, jars, bottles and dishes of shells. How lovely for you find such a treasure still alive! You can think of it making its way through the warm Florida waters, unaware of how close it came to the end of its life!

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    • Aren’t shells fun? I live so far from the shore that being able to go to the beach is a real treat for me, so I guess I like having shells to remind me of it. And yes, I love the thought of that shell living on, not knowing how close it came to it’s demise. I never intentionally harm a living thing, but sometimes it is easy to think a shell isn’t alive when it is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten back to my condo, looked over my shells, and realized, “whoops….that one is alive!” And then I have to run back to the beach to put it in the water before it is too late!

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  8. Oh Ann, I used to be that way about material (fabric) when I was an avid sewer. I had quite an accumulation ….. but I did let it go .
    Its not so much about the stuff but what it means to us and we can really remember that .

    Patty k

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    • Oh, it is! In certain parts of Florida (Sanibel, Marco, etc.) they actually brag about the great “shelling” beaches. I’d never collected shells until we began vacationing there, but I was soon hooked. And now I have come to appreciate the value of finding a pretty shell and then simply putting it back rather than trying to take it home with me. You’re right, we do learn the true value of so many things as we age.

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  9. Good for you for putting the shell back Ann. I love to look for sand dollars in South Carolina, but I think the thrill is more in finding them than bringing them home. It makes the stroll on the beach so much fun and exciting. And welcome back.

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    • Thank you! It is good to be back in the blogging world, although back into the cold temps….not so much. I love finding sand dollars too, but I have a much harder time determining if they are alive or not, so I almost always put them back. Because you’re right, the real thrill is just finding them!

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  10. That’s a good place to be, Ann, when you can enjoy a discovery without having to take it home with you. This applies to so many things that we humans covet, but don’t necessarily need for ourselves. The shell does look really interesting in the picture and I’m glad you were able to admire it and a shot of it!

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    • It is a good place, Des, and I’ve only just arrived (and expect I will back slide now and then.) But I’ve begun to think of it as visiting a museum: I see beautiful and wonderful things, but I don’t try to take them home with me. Sometimes just seeing them is enough!

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  11. Ann, your words near the end of your lovely post on collecting sea shells spoke directly to me and indirectly to my wife, who shares vicariously the posts I am reading. Gertrud has an unbelievably large rock and pebble collection. The window sills are overflowing with pebbles. Behind the house it looks like a stone quarry. I am not much better in this regard. I am fascinated with collecting driftwood and bringing home from the beach these amazing wood sculptures and place them in our yard. You are so right saying that there must be a point in one’s life, where one can safely say it is enough.

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    • Thanks, Peter, for your kind and affirming words! Yes, we do eventually get to the point where we say, “this is enough.” But for the things we truly love, that can be a hard thing to achieve. I think it helps as we get older and our houses are full of our treasures, so we begin to understand that we don’t need to actually bring it all home. Sometimes just seeing it is enough!

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    • Thanks, Alan! According to my shelling guides, they are supposed to be fairly common in southwest Florida, but for me, they’re pretty rare. I “found” my first one when I was sitting on the sand one day, and one just rolled in with the waves and ended up by my foot. I picked it up and admired it, and then had to go look it up to see just what it was. Since then, I’ve only found faded and broken ones. This was by far the prettiest and in the best shape, but that was probably because it was also still alive. I’m just happy I got to see it and was able to return it to the water so it could live.

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    • Oh, yes, I have several shelling guides that tell me the names (both common, like “king’s crown” and the scientific, which I can never remember or pronounce) of the shells I have found and look for. And I agree, it is a win-win that I found the shell, but also that it was still alive and able to live on in the ocean!

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  12. Hehe! I know the feeling of surprise when picking up a life shell, Ann! 😄 I picked many of those during holidays in Spain, and like you always returned them to the sea of course. 😊 As to all that collecting and gathering – it truly is deeply embedded in our genetic codes and hard to overcome. Overloaded book shelves speak volumes of my weakness. 😉

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    • It sounds odd, but I really do think that our tendency toward acquiring things is genetic! How else do you explain our obsession with shopping and how many people struggle with hoarding? It sort of goes against our basic instincts not to “collect” especially the stuff we really value. (And as for the books, believe me, I understand!) I guess it is just something we have to work at. Thanks for the comment, Sarah!

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  13. I guess there does come a time when collecting becomes more than is reasonable but isn’t that part of the fun of going on these trips? Finding things to take home with you? Too bad we have to make those choices but you are right, sometimes enough is enough. But still….:) I wonder what you’ll do next trip…:)
    Glad you had a good time.

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    • Yes, it can be hard, because part of the fun of “shelling” is bringing the shells home with you. But believe me, you really can get to the point where you know that you just plain don’t need any more shells! So now we look through them carefully, pick out a few really “good ones” and return the rest to the beach. (And living ones always have to be returned to the beach right away.) There comes a time when the thrill of just fining one has to be enough, and I think I’ve hit that.
      And it was a very fun trip! Thanks, George, always good to hear from you!

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  14. What a nice sentiment Ann. I think Buddhist believe something similar, like if you admire a flower, then just look at it and appreciate its beauty, don’t pluck it (basically killing it) and placing it in a vase.

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    • I think that is such a good way to look at it! Admiring something without having to take it away from it’s own home is the best way. Sort of like looking at great art in a museum…we can appreciate it without ever having the expectation of taking it home with us!

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  15. Seems like most of the stuff I collect these days can be stored in a computer file. That makes it insidious; it hardly takes any physical space and it’s hard to see how much there is. But I know it will take years to read/watch/study what I already have. How do I stop collecting more of that?

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    • I’m sorry to say, I really have no idea how you stop collecting that, Dave! But I can see where it could get overwhelming rather quickly. I hadn’t even thought that stuff stored on a computer can be just as much of a problem as stuff that required physical space…that’s a good point!

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  16. I agree with your statement, “I think that most people are naturally acquisitive…” Even though my husband and I move a lot, stuffing our belongings into suitcases and packing a few boxes to send via one international postal service or another, we always find ourselves giving away or throwing away too much “stuff.” Every move we think, “Next stop, we’re not going to gather so much.” But we do! I should say, I’m more prone to gather than my husband.

    In the past, when my children were young, it was much more difficult to get rid of things. Before doing so, I’d take a photo of their artwork or project and place it in a journal. Now, I have a couple boxes of journals stored in my parent’s attic.

    I’m glad you enjoyed time away. Lovely post as always with good and timely reminders!

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    • Thanks, Brenda! I honestly do think that acquiring things is just part of human nature, which is why almost all of us have more stuff than we actually need, or even want. And it’s funny, but I used to do the same thing with my kids’ art and school projects! I hated throwing away stuff they worked so hard on, but they took up so much space. So we would take a photo of it, and then get rid of it, and everybody was happy.

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  17. Ann, this is a beautiful post and a very beautiful concept. In Buddhism, one key concept is about “attachment” and the ability to detach from things, moments, ideas etc.

    When we had to sell our home in Nicaragua, which we had designed and had built to our specifications and loved and lived in for six years and were deeply attached to, I finally realised that it was a BIG lesson in attachment for me. Sometimes the lessons come in big packages and sometimes, like with your shell, in small ones.

    I never realised that there is a term called “sheller”. I love that. We both love collecting shells although because we have a nomadic lifestyle we have to be very selective about what we actually keep. So we have learnt to enjoy them in their natural environment. That said, during our 2 year on the road, moving around Asia and Europe, I could not understand why my normally fairly light backpack was weighing me down. Literally. Until we arrived in LA to visit family and unpacked everything for the first time in a LONG time. Out came the beautiful stones and shells from a variety of beaches and countries. My mother in law thought I was quite crazy… I had forgotten about my hidden treasures.

    I love that you found the perfect shell you were looking for and that it was still inhabited by the original owner. Squatters rights means it still belongs to him/her haha.

    Wonderful post, thank you for sharing.

    Peta

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    • Thanks, Peta! I love the concept of detaching ourselves from actual things, although I imagine that was a hard lesson to learn when you had to give up your beloved house. As for the shells and stones, I love that! The fact that you forgot you had them just shows that we really can leave so many of our “treasures” in their natural environment and don’t need to take them for ourselves. I have to tell you, the fact that I had a whole bin of Christmas ornaments that I didn’t use or miss this year really hit me hard….that means I have way too many of them!

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  18. Yep, I used to be an avid sell shell collector too! However this is a wonderful message here Ann. Love that you found it and then left it. You’re right, we have more stuff than we need. I’ve just come home from visiting my sister and she’s still going through mum’s things, two years after. I don’t need any more stuff, some things that are precious momentos yes, but otherwise I’m in declutter mode.

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    • Me, too! I think it comes from aging… When I was young, I was busy trying to furnish my house on a shoestring budget. But now I have all the “stuff” I need, and am learning to just appreciate things when I see them rather than feeling the need to actually bring anything home with me!

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    • Yes, despite knowing that I had so many shells at home, and feeling good about returning a live shell to the ocean, there is still a part of me that wishes I could have brought that beautiful shell home! Learning to live with less is always an ongoing thing!

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  19. What a lovely post! I know just what you mean, having spent this past year mostly just looking and not buying or collecting as travelling light, just appreciating anything I see in the moment. And of course often documenting it in words/photographs!

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