Posts Tagged ‘beachcombing’

stone beach

Finding the ideal love is like trying to find a perfectly symmetrical stone on the beach.  It’s not easy.  Even with so many possibilities, the task is more difficult than one would imagine.  And the longer you look, the slimmer the odds of finding that perfect specimen may seem.  Though some might appear somewhat perfect at a distance, upon closer inspection, it soon becomes apparent that they are not quite so.

That’s not to say that it’s downright impossible to find perfect specimens. They are indeed out there, but be forewarned that many years may pass between one discovery and the next.

circular stones

Whether or not we realize it, we also search for physical symmetry in other human beings. Characteristic of good genes and general good health in nature, perfect symmetry in a mate would likely increase one’s chances of creating healthy offspring.  No wonder we’re so drawn to people with beautifully symmetrical faces.

And yet, there is a certain charm and character attributable to the not-so-symmetrical. With perhaps an even stronger  magnetism, especially where romantic love is concerned, we are drawn towards the imperfect.  Why? One theory suggests that while our minds are pleasantly calmed by symmetry, they also quickly become bored with it.  Intrigued by complexity, when faced with marginally flawed symmetry, our minds are perked and subconsciously go to work to try and figure out what’s causing the disparity.

Although the human body is symmetrical in so many ways, the shape of the human heart is not.   Could that be a clue that perfection in matters of the heart was created to be elusive?   If we are to achieve any semblance of perfection in love, like the rare round stones found sometimes on the beach, it’s only due to years of surviving the pounding waves and stormy seas.  Now there’s something to ponder as we approach Valentine’s Day.

Text and images copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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beach voodoo

Every once in awhile, I come across some strange things that are either left or washed ashore on the beach.  This particular stone and feather construction might be one of the weirdest yet.  It’s possible that it’s the work of some creative kids.  However, my guess is that it’s more likely some type of sacred voodoo ritual involving a seagull.

biomedical wasteThis bright yellow biomedical waste bucket caught my eye as it lay half buried in a sand dune in the salt marsh.  I didn’t realize what was written on it until after I had pulled it out of the wet sand and was already carrying it towards the garbage can along the trail.

When I found it I did notice that the bottom of the bucket had some holes pierced into it and a heavy rock was placed inside it.  Someone probably tried to sink it from a boat.

I called the number shown and the people there were fairly clueless as to how the bucket might have made its way into the salt marsh.  Was it stolen from their warehouse and used to carry clams?  I just hope it was empty when it arrived in the marsh and was never used for its intended purpose.

yellow boat

Why would anyone abandon a boat on a beach?  I would assume this one had some value when it first washed ashore.  Whatever happened to the people or person who rowed it there?  Or was it set adrift?  This yellow dory is located towards the end of Silver Sands beach.  Do the ghosts of pirates row around in it for fun on nights when there’s a full moon?

I’m sure stranger things have been found along local beaches, but along with the yellow long stemmed roses I wrote about last week, these are the oddest I’ve found to date.  Have you ever found anything unusual at the beach?

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lasagna seaweed1
If you stroll along the seashore this summer, you’ll probably not give the seaweeds or grasses beneath your feet a second thought. They often look messy, and their muted colors certainly don’t catch the eye of beachcombers looking for seashells and other treasures. But they are worth a closer look…

sugar kelp

Sugar kelp (Laminaria saccharina) at Rainbow Haven Beach

This large seaweed looks exactly like the noodles used in lasagna, a dish first served by the Romans.  It is often washed up on Nova Scotia beaches during storms, but is also found on other Atlantic and Pacific coasts elsewhere in the world. 

The Italians cook so many different types of macaroni that were inspired by the sea.  The shells are obvious:  lumaconi (jumbo shells), conchiglie (medium shells) and lumachine (baby shells) among others.  Could lasagna noodles have been inspired by the sea as well?

Known as sugar kelp because of the sugar-like crystals that appear on its surface as it dries, this seaweed can been used as a weather predictor.  It will become soft and limp when rain is imminent, but dry and stiff when clear skies are on the horizon.  Regardless of the weather, it’s always a good time to enjoy lasagna.

irish moss

Irish Moss (Chondrus) and the rockweed Fucus on the shore at Rainbow Haven Beach

Irish Moss is another common seaweed found on our beaches.  Its reddish purple color is easy to notice among the many other types of seaweed.  If you eat ice-cream, you’ve most likely eaten Irish Moss.  It goes by the name of carrageenan on food labels.  Its gelling properties make it a popular thickener in many foods. However, some researchers have linked it to colitis and colon cancer in recent years.  Irish moss is raked in large quantities for commercial use on our shores.


Dried Eelgrass (Zostera) between rocks along the Salt Marsh Trail

Eelgrass is another sea plant that’s served an unlikely purpose. It was used as an effective insulator for many years and is still being replaced by newer forms of insulation between the walls of some older homes in Nova Scotia. For centuries it helped keep maritime homes warm and cozy while the winter winds howled outside.  It was once used to stuff mattresses as well.  These days it’s woven in some parts of the world for use in home furnishings.

These are just three of the many types of sea plants that wash up on Nova Scotia’s shores. Some, like Dulse and Ulva (sea lettuce) are eaten fresh. Dulse is also eaten dried and is easily found in local grocery stores. It was seaweed that kept many coastal people in Ireland from starving to death during the Great Potato Famine.

There’s certainly more to these sea plants than first meets the eye.

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As a collector of seashells, I’ve always looked for the ideal specimen while walking along the shore:  a flawless shell that’s a prime example of its species.  Strong waves and stones often damage delicate shells and wear them down so that many of the ridges are worn and surfaces cracked by the time they wash up on the beach.  Yet, Rainbow Haven beach has offered up perfect moon shells and dogwhelks over the years, and I’ve found some beautiful urchins on the nearby shores of Silver Sands. 

baccaroshellsA couple of years ago, my friend Ruth brought me some shells from a trip she made back home to the south shore of Nova Scotia.  Although she included some perfect specimens, some worn shells were also part of the collection that she had beautifully arranged in a large glass jar.  When I decided to draw them one day, it was the worn shells that seemed most interesting.  One shell in particular was just a skeleton of its former self , yet it proved to be the most appealing subject of all.  It was one that I did not quickly grow tired of drawing over and over again.  Why?

Nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished.  ~ Wabi sabi

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and can identify more with the worn out and frayed,  but as time goes on, it seems that the imperfect holds greater appeal to me from an aesthetic perspective.  Not just worn seashells but trees in an obvious state of decay are also more attractive, as is my gravel driveway with the grass growing up the middle.  

vinesinwinterThe vines on my house continue to cover up more and more of the ‘clean white’ siding.  Though they look gnarly in the winter, during the summer, their green leaves are so refreshingly beautiful… perhaps even more so, because I know they won’t last.  The grass withers, the flowers fade…  Would something not be lost if the grass was always green and flowers were always in full bloom?  Flower beds that are ‘still in the works’ hold the promise of new plantings and arrangements in the growing season ahead.  I know this long, cold winter will make the sun and sea breezes feel even warmer as I’m hanging the laundry on the clothesline this summer.

My favorite seashell is a small cockle with smoothly worn ridges that my oldest son picked up on the beach and gave me when he was a toddler over two decades ago.  To me, it embodies the ephemeral wonder of children and the wearing of time and the elements on all that is alive on the planet.  It also holds the promise of more days spent roaming sparkling shores in search of the perfectly imperfect specimen.

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