Out of the Blue, Lesson 3: My Big Bad Footprint


As promised, this is a story of desire, murder and remorse. The plot will never show up on Law and Order since the victim of this crime won’t engender any more sympathy than the death of Saddem Hussein. I may have underestimated the people who will read this who still are ticked off about Bambi’s mother . . . so, I will let the chips fall where they may.

Since this is my “beach blog series” you probably are already suspicious that the “footprint” mentioned in the title is going to be footprints in the sand. With all respect to that old [worn out] adage about “He carried” me leaving only “His” footsteps in the sand, this is another set of footprints entirely.

One cannot travel very far down the shoreline without seeing evidence of all those footsteps that have been there in the last 24 hours. Even if the tide has taken away the actual footsteps, the trail of them remains. There are always a couple of remains of the day left by children . . . an occasional shovel or sand strainer.

I understand that . . . children are, well . . . children. They are busy, forgetful, and less than responsible when it comes to collecting their belongings. But what about the adults? There are water bottles and fishing hooks with line, apple cores and banana peels, sunscreen bottles and food wrappers.


People must think that it is OK to toss their food garbage onto the sand since it is biodegradable; but, seriously folks, I so do NOT want to see your-half chewed apple on my nature walk. But I digress from the actual point of this blog, which is a tale of murder and hopeful redemption.

On my early morning walk (this is blog three of that fateful day) I saw this bee-U-tee-ful shell glistening on the beach. The picture just does not do it justice, as it is striped in exquisite soft pastels of green, mauve and beige. I wanted to add this to my collection of beautiful finds on the beach.


When I picked it up to look (lovingly?) at it, I turned it over. The resident in that shell, who was alive and well, jumped back inside the shell, shrinking until almost invisible. But I knew s/he was in there. Thus began a moral dilemma for me that didn’t end so well for the little crustacean (actually, a gastropod mollusk). What should I do? I wanted this shell. I really wanted this shell. Did I want it enough to commit murder? I held it in my hand and flipped it back and forth. Now you seem him; now you don’t. Yet I know he is inside. My mind traveled to that trite story about the child tossing the starfish into the water and responding, when someone challenged that she could never really make a difference, by saying “It will in this one’s life.” So my moral compass, which was feeling quite teeny at the time, whispered “Toss him back into the water . . . do it now! Make a difference.” I suppose you are tuned in to how this ended since I have pictures of the shell in this blog. I kept him and let him croak a sad lonely death on the front porch of the beach house. I have my shell. I also have my guilt. Why would this make me feel so sad and disappointed in myself? Is it any less moral to toss trash on the beach than it is to willfully take the life of something just because you want to possess another “thing?”


Each night, before going to sleep, I enjoy reading for 15-30 minutes. That night I picked up one of the 10 books I had brought with me for this tiny vacation. It was Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. What an unfortunate choice of reading material for someone who already was wallowing in her homicidal tendencies. This book encourages its readers to live their lives in each present moment and to create happiness for themselves without emphasizing material possessions.Tolle’s intent is to change the way human beings think, and he envisions a world population that is increasingly more humble, enlightened and pure. The book describes human dysfunction, selfishness, anxiety and the inhumanity we inflict on each other, as well as mankind’s failed attempts to find life meaning and purpose through material possessions and unhealthy relationships. It asserts that thoughts can have a powerful and beneficial “effect on the healing process,” and puts forth a concept of “evolutionary transformation of human consciousness” which prompts the reader to participate in “honest self-evaluation [that] can lead to positive change.”

Obsession with possessions? Who me? EEEEEKKKK! How can I bring about a “new earth” when I personally assaulted and murdered an innocent snail? Suddenly I felt an individual responsibility for things occurring in the Ukraine, the Middle East, and Ferguson, Missouri. How far a stretch is it from killing a mollusk to beheading a journalist? I say this seriously, since my actions really did disturb me.

Do I enjoy this little shell? Certainly, but not in the manner in which I thought. Rather than enjoy it for its inherent beauty as one of the many wonders of a gorgeous world, I keep it as a reminder of my Lesson #3. The earth is fragile; life is fragile. I must take a role in making this a better (if not “new”) earth. Some Christian leaders have criticized Tolle’s book, saying that it states that man controls his own destiny rather than God. In my particular fantasy about sitting with “my” God, I’m quite sure I would hear this:

Jane! Repeat this: If it is going to be, it is up to me. 


My hope is that my footprint may take wings and I that I can quit stomping around in big old boots. I do want to make a difference. Is today the day? Yes . . . because if it is going to be, it IS up to me.



Out of the Blue, Lesson 2: The Early Bird Does Truly Get the Worm (Part 2)


After one lives in Florida for a while, one becomes quite familiar with a particular species of mammal, the subspecies of the kingdom Animalia known as Homo sapiens sapiens tourista. For our purposes, we shall refer to this as the HSS Tourista, for their ship has indeed sailed for this observer. This multi-colored, brightly-plumed species (think Hawaiian shirts and muumuus) can be seen throughout the great State of Florida. In spite of plumage, gender, ethnicity, age or other specificity, they all exhibit some of the same behaviors: pointing at lighthouses, purchasing large bags of citrus fruit, purchasing even larger bags of Five-Tee-Shirts-for-$10, and lining up in the rain to see such characters as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, newly discovered sisters Elsa and Anna, Harry Potter, and The Blue Man Group. They indulge in grouper and shrimp, Key Lime Pie, steamed oysters, and Cuban sandwiches (sneaky name for a sub sandwich). But as in all species, the H.s.s. touristas really shine on the beach. They seem easy to identify. Their swimsuits are glorious colorful spandex. Locals are in faded-out suits. They are the color of Maine lobsters. Locals are shades of brown, most hosting various degrees of skin cancer. They are frolicking in a most stereotypical fashion as if they have been drugged by the Florida ad campaign, by building sand castles, burying dad up to the neck in sand, swishing across the beach with a metal detector, playing Frisbee, and sunbathing. Locals look upon all this with a look of smug disdain . . . except for the art of beachcombing. Everyone but everyone goes beachcombing.

If you read yesterday’s blog you will remember that my mini-sabbatical occurred on the Atlantic Ocean. The species H.s.s. tourista have probably done their homework, because the Atlantic is not the best place to beachcomb. Shell aficionados have long known that the best, biggest, brightest, most impressive shells lie in wait on the Gulf shores in such sexy-sounding places as Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Honeymoon Beach, Cedar Key and if you have a flair for the international, there is Panama City and Venice Beaches. There are some Atlantic locations, such as Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, but one has to plow through piles of broken shells to find some keepers. Here is an example of some of the bits and pieces I picked up from Neptune Beach.

 shells2 shells1

            Top view of broken shells                 Underside of broken shells

So, what about that early bird? The morning when I arose at 4:00 a.m. to walk the beach and experience the sunrise taught me a lesson . . . the first of many. If one is on the beach at daybreak, there are some fabulous finds in the vast detritus of shells on the beach. The three pictured below were within 10 feet of each other. I was stunned to see them. Never-ever have I found such perfect shells in my eight years of living near the beaches. I admit that my days on the beach have been minimal. Thankfully, retirement is changing that dynamic for me. My treasures (i.e., early worms!):

 shells4 shells3

Shells with a quarter, which is actually worth 13-cents (9-cents at the pump)

One final note, I found this beautiful little shell. It was perfectly formed and glistened in the sun. I wanted it like Gollum wanted “his precious.”  I grabbed it up and claimed it for my kingdom . . . only to see that it still housed a living resident.

 snail1My Precious

   A nice home for a snail                                . . . he’s back!

More on that tomorrow with Lesson Three: My Big Bad Footprint      

Oh wait! Listen!! I hear the beach calling me back. See you soon, sweetheart!

Thanks for stopping by.


Out of the Blue, Lesson 1: The Early Bird Truly Does Get the Worm (Part One)

Whoever said that? A little research finds this first recorded in John Ray’s A collection of English proverbs 1670, 1678, where it was “The early bird catcheth the worm.” That makes it sound like it was straight from the lips of Jesus or Queen Victoria. This must be a Queen sort of quote since Jesus wasn’t English (at least not until Walter Sallman painted him in the early 1900’s where he looks like Viscount Jesus of Birmingham . . . see below).


I think Jesus may have looked more like Osama bin Laden than this. That, however, is another blog.

That quote sounds like it could have come from the lips of Ben Franklin, who is attributed to everything from this quote to “my mother was so big she bought swimsuits with a blowhole” and we all know that was Joan Rivers (R.I.P.).

Yet the truth of that little proverb was revealed to me on one of my early walks on the beach. The highlight of my summer, and maybe even my decade, was taking the opportunity to dog sit for a friend who is living in Atlantic Beach, Florida. This funky and fun beach village is just a stone’s throw from Jacksonville. I suppose many would consider it a suburb of Jax, but somehow that just seems to trivialize this unique community. My sweet little beach cottage was just a two block walk from the beach. This area is called “The Beaches” since Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach all flow together seamlessly.

Since I was on the Atlantic side of the state, me thought it would behoove me to stroll the beach at sunrise. (Sorry about the behooving, but I think the spirit of Queen Vicky has overtaken me.) This would be a first and certainly something on my bucket list, that is: seeing the sunrise over the Atlantic (not hosting the spirit of Queen Vic). I would dearly love to see the “green flash” at sunrise but I believe one must be much farther north (i.e. Maine?) to experience that.

With or without the green flash, let’s just say that the sunrise was spectacular. Creeping along the beach in the dark at 5:00 a.m., I was quite surprised at the amount of light that seeped into the environment even before the sun was visible. The dawn was thick around us and the rhythmic pounding of waves filled our hearing. Just like a spotlight before an act emerges on stage, the glow on the horizon predicted the event about to occur. But nothing could have prepared me for the glorious rising of the sun, peeking over the distant waves and shooting fiery orange ribbons of light all the way from the horizon to the shore. As the sun appeared, I could only marvel at its resemblance to a big old blood orange (which is only politically correct since this is, of course, Florida). A series of gawkers lined the shore and the inhalations and exhalations, ooohhs and aaahhs, gasps and tears of joy united us at once into a primitive congregation of sun worshippers. Some raised their hands in praise, some prayed, and many tried to capture the moment with cameras and cell phones. Those moments are beyond cinematic capture. I share a few but know that they just do not reflect or refract that moment in time.

Tune in tomorrow to find out the other “worms” that this early bird captured on one glorious morning on Neptune Beach.


Sol beginning to peek over the horizon



Moments later . . . Scarlet ribbons


Just minutes later, the sun’s rising was done and birds began to skitter all over, followed by children and parents, dogs and masters, joggers, swimmers, castle-builders, tourists, and even more birds as life began to fill the beach.