The Seashells by the Seashore

A few days ago we drove our camper to Matagorda, Texas to camp by the mouth of the Colorado River. There is something sublime about witnessing the “end” of a river. To see it finish its journey and merging with a larger body of water; a liberation of sorts.

As most of us do when at the beach, I walked on the wet sand letting the cool waves reach my feet and surround them with its salty embrace. As always, I turned my sight down in search for the “perfect” seashells; those that kept their beautiful shapes. There were very few of them except for some Cockles which are the most common in Gulf of Mexico beaches. Disappointed, I then focused on the peculiar shapes and sizes of shell particles on the sand. Some were bright as marble and others porous like sea sponges while others crumbled when I touched them. I marveled at the realization that none of them were identical!

Could not help but think of a life metaphor. These “imperfect” shells are like us humans; they are the majority among the few “precious” ones. Broken, chipped, mended, we go through life in search of value and appreciation. We live insecure and in a continuous comparison of ourselves with more sought after beings. Is that your case? It is certainly mine.

I’ve lived over half a century and still not comfortable with the way I look, talk or smile. These unique pieces laying on the sand showed me the beauty of imperfection, for who is perfect really? Those coveted seashells?  When you think about it they are actually boring and expected; unsurprising, ephemerous admiration to be displayed or stored. Imperfect shells are an enigma; their shape, color, and size transported my imagination to decipher their origin or place in the vast sea. I looked at their shapes closely in awe -something I have never done with the usual beauties. I need to look at people the same way.

There are no imperfections in life. It is us humans who determine and categorize beauty but beauty, like life, cannot be contained or categorized. It is in the eye of the beholder as we often hear. But if the beholder is influenced then perception changes. There is a continuous debate in the art world about the subjectivity of art. Some say art is subjective and it comes down to what moves the spectator while others feel works of art have to follow certain rules and characteristics in order to be considered fine art. I cannot say right now that these broken shells are ugly, for they touched me in a way the perfect shells never have. They spoke to my inner self and we connected unlike the connection of beauty, for something precious can feel distant and only worthy of a pedestal while imperfection is fun, casual and honest.

I also thought of a possible life lesson to be learned from those coveted “perfect” seashells, but that will have to wait for another time. Right now I am relishing  on feeling wonderful about my imperfections.


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