Rainbow on a Half Shell

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The Lesson a Mussel can Hold

Our local beach is chock-full of mussels this year. I am not sure why, but we have never had a wash up of the mollusk in this number… uncountable thousands. While this has created a veritable buffet for more variety of shore birds than we usually have, it is not always pleasant to sit by the ocean and read, or swim.

Rather than look at the piles of black, though, I am learning to get in there, walk the tide line, and look carefully. Rewards are there, beauty is there, and this photo holds both. The sun had cleared the horizon an hour earlier, and the shell was angled just perfectly to catch the new light. I never move or touch an object to create a photo; I make the photograph just as I find an object on the tide line. The rainbow in this mussel would have been gone in just a few minutes, as the sun moved higher above the horizon.

I know there are lessons for me in this. As many of this blog’s followers know, I spend time on the beach mostly as a contemplative exercise. Photographing the tide line came decades after I began walking it. That particular morning, as far as I could see, the tide line was a long cluster of countless black shells. And truth be told it smelled. This shell, this rainbow-in-miniature, was less than two inches in length, and sitting just in front of the larger piles. It was a bit of serendipity that I could have easily missed, a treasure in a very unexpected place. I only noticed it because I focused in – not the camera, me. I looked closely at the tide line, past the piles of black and the remains of gull breakfasts.

How many other small delights do I miss everyday by being bogged down by the mundane, the bothersome, or the repulsive? What other gifts from God have I overlooked because I have been numbed by the obvious and immediate and have not looked closely.

Yes, this small mussel shell, and the rainbow it holds, was a gift. May I also learn the lesson it held for me that morning.

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