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.
It 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.