Little Jeffrey told me last night, “Don’t wake me, I want to sleep in.” Figures. So…it was just me and the ocean this a.m.
This sand is well-known to me. I first left my footprints here as a new bride. Then later as a young mama. We stopped coming here as the boys grew into their own little selves. Too far to drive.
Most recently I walked these shores as a newly-turned 40 year-old. Jeff brought me back here in March to surprise me for my birthday. We enjoyed it so much we decided to give it another try.
Today as I walk in my old footprints I am only thinking, “My, how time flies.”
When we first came here as newlyweds, I kept this same practice every morning: walk along the beach at sunrise, gather what beachy treasures my two hands could hold, sing prayers out over the ocean—feel their power return to me with each lapping wave and return renewed.
On that first trip, my treasures were tiny sand dollars. In those early days, these silver-dollar-sized jewels littered these sands. I brought them home with me by the dozens, enchanted with their pristine white.
Strange, I have not found such treasure since. There are many broken pieces of larger, discolored sand dollars up and down the shore, but my little lovelies have gone it seems.
I have come to see them as a wedding gift from Father; little trinkets to delight.
As I searched in vain this morning, it seemed to me that the tiny bleached circlets were an accurate representation of our love at that time: small, unscarred, fresh and beautiful. As I wandered, lost in memories, a paralyzing thought struck me: Could it be, then, that these old, broken, graying pieces are a picture of our love today?
Pondering this concept as I trudged back to the condo I decided to google the sand dollar and learn a little more about these cuties (Ah, the wonders of mobile internet).
Wikipedia was helpful, telling me that sand dollars live an average of 6-10 years, that living sand dollars range from bluish green to purple in color, and that (wow) they digest their food for up to two days. But I also stumbled on some research articles that discussed the difficulty that sand dollar larvae have in survival because of their small size.
Does this mean that larger sand dollars are older?
My searches regarding this issue were not conclusive, only telling me that size depends on many factors—including environment and feeding conditions. We can determine the age of a sand dollar by counting the growth rings around the edges of the exoskeleton.
In the absence of a clear answer, I am going to assume that if the sand dollar larvae are tiny, then the things must get bigger as they age. Make sense?
We can then assume that these larger sand dollar pieces I am finding are pieces of older specimens. I also discovered this little fact: The most common cause of death for sand dollars is old age. As I read more about these ocean creatures, I began to gain a healthy respect for the unsightly pieces of exoskeleton I have been finding in abundance on this trip.
They began to take on a new kind of beauty in my eyes. An enduring kind of beauty. These guys were likely the elder statesmen of the sand dollar community. Pretty, they may not be, but they had lived a long and full life in the underwater world.
I began to feel sorry for the pristine whites I had gathered in my youth. These little guys must have died an early death.
You know where I’m going here, right?
Love that endures sometimes is not so pretty. Sometimes it becomes scarred, or discolored. It may not appear attractive to the average on-looker. But a deeper look will reveal the beauty.
Yes, maybe our love is like these pieces of exoskeleton, growing more beautiful—richer and deeper as the years pass.