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Posts Tagged ‘Seashells’

Take a few minutes from your summer and make a mandala from natural materials.   Mandalas are an excellent exercise to help you focus on the moment at hand.  You may create something beautiful in the process but don’t worry about perfection.  

Depending on your intention while creating your mandala, you may construct  a sacred space in which to bring your thoughts and prayers.

Summer offers a variety of materials:  leaves, flowers, twigs and grasses.  Your palette of living colors will depend on what’s in bloom in your corner of the world right now.  Found feathers, seashells and stones may also be used.  The possibilities are endless.

You can create one by yourself, with a friend or with a child. 

Create a circular shape with your materials.  You can plan to have a set number of sections in your design or just see what happens. 

You can make your mandalas outdoors or inside.  It doesn’t matter if you keep your arrangement forever, for a day, or just a few minutes.  Mandalas are about here and now.

For more information about mandalas, see my previous post on Autumn Mandalas.

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It’s not easy keeping cool when the heat and humidity conspire to drain you of your energy and motivation.

Snowshoe hares know how to make the most of the dog days of summer by relaxing in the clover. They’re not running and hopping around as much as they did earlier this summer. 

My yard is a haven for them as I don’t have a dog.  Hares know how to stay cool by winding down activities and keeping a low profile.

In ancient times, the dog star Sirius was considered responsible for the sweltering heat.  Back then, its coincidental rising with the sun in July and August was thought to bring on the worst in men and beasts.

But there are many ways to tame the beast within during these ravaging hot days…

Taking a moment to pause and smell the roses is always a good way to refresh yourself through scent and beauty.  The wild rose bush is in bloom in my yard.  With its single layer of petals, it resembles the Dog rose (Rosa canina) often used in heraldry.

Even if you don’t have roses nearby, so many other beautiful flowers are in bloom at this time of year, both in gardens and in the wild.

Certainly one of the best ways to beat the heat is to take a stroll along the seashore.  Morning and evening walks are especially refreshing. 

Collecting seashells along the shore is a quiet activity sure to take the focus off the concerns of the day.  

Over the years I’ve collected a variety of Dogwinkles (Nucella lapilus) both at Rainbow Haven and Silver Sands beaches.  Worn smooth by the waves and bleached pale by the sun, they even feel like summer as you roll them between your fingers.

Of course the best way to be refreshed during the dog days of summer is to take a plunge in the water, be it a stream, lake or the sea.  Nature beckons.

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water

The provincial park at  Rainbow Haven Beach can attract thousands of visitors on a hot summer day.   The large sandy shore is beautiful and the cool water can be refreshing in the heat.  A network of boardwalks leads to different sections of the beach, allowing visitors to walk among the grassed sand dunes without having to disturb the ecosystem.

rainbow haven 1

Parking lots fill quickly, so vehicles line the sides of nearby roads, where they are often ticketed if wheels are found touching the pavement.  Lifeguards, washroomsand change rooms with an outdoor shower are all available throughout the summer months.  Volleyball is a popular activity on the beach, attracting many young people.  The numerous plastic toys that are left behind indicate the large number of children who are kept busy playing in the sand.

rainbow haven 2

Over the years I’ve noticed a decline in bird and marine life along this shore. Intensive human activity, even if it’s limited to a single season, has an effect on wildlife that cannot be denied.

mussel bed at rainbow haven beach during low tide

Plovers no longer nest in the grassed areas, which is probably just as well, since many dog owners ignore the signs that instruct them to keep their pets on a leash.  Sensitive sandpipers have moved further into the quieter watershed area behind the beach.  Seashells have become more scarce over the years, as have the crabs and sea stars that were once common tidepool residents.  Only seagulls remain, if they are present at all, lured by the garbage left behind by visitors.

statice

Wild Statice grows in the park.  Sometimes called Sea Lavender, it will be a bright purple once it’s in full bloom.  This plant is often used in both dried and fresh floral arrangements.  It is illegal to remove plants or animals from a provincial park.

Managing parklands in a way that allows people to enjoy nature while minimizing the negative effect on the ecosystem is an ongoing challenge.  If you visit this beach, take care to leave with only your memories.  Let only your footprints remain behind on the sand.

For all posts about Rainbow Haven Beach see here.

This post updated August 23, 2015.

All text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2009 and 2015.

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moonshell spiralThe spiral is a shape that has fascinated humans since ancient times.  The first symbols drawn on the planet were spirals, thought to represent the sun and eternity.

When one thinks of spirals in nature, univalve seashells immediately come to mind.  These spirals are logarithmic, the distance between the turns increasing as the shape becomes larger.  (Don’t confuse this shape with an archimedean spiral).

Logarithmic spirals were called spira mirabilis ( marvelous spirals) by the scientists who first studied them.  Besides seashells, this shape is also found in fiddlehead ferns in spring time, the arrangement of seeds in sunflowers and the scales of pinecones.  Not all spirals in nature are static.  Galaxies and tornadoes follow this shape, as do hawks in their approach to prey in flight.

pine cone A look into the mathematics behind spiral shapes can lead to further study of the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Numbers, both fascinating topics.

The spiral is one of several interesting shapes that are found repeatedly in nature.  These shapes often form exquisite patterns and many are building blocks for larger things.  Last week I wrote about the meander.

In the Saturdays between now and mid-summer’s eve, I’ll explore a number of other shapes found in nature as a lead-up to a Summer Scavenger Hunt.  Details of the hunt to be disclosed June 20th.

For more information on the spiral form in freshwater and sea shells, see the shell section at Drawing Conclusions.

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sunrise-along-the-salt-marsh-trail

Although it’s still quite cool in the morning, a sunrise walk along the Salt Marsh Trail is well worth the trip.  Since the first section of the trail off Bissett Road is in a wooded area, it takes a bit of time to get into the open part of the marsh.  The challenge is to get to the marsh before the sun rises.

The only birds around were seagulls and ducks.  If there were eagles, they were probably watching from the woods, wondering why any human being would show up so early in the morning to disturb their peace and quiet.

bridge-along-the-salt-marsh-trail

Several bridges along the trail provide a break from its walking surface of finely crushed gravel.  

sun-rising-over-marsh-grass

Rivers of salt water meander through the marsh grass.  The best views are at the centre of the marsh, beyond the first couple of bridges.

moon-shell-underwater

Just a few feet below the trail, clam, moon and blue mussel shells provide a varied breakfast selection for seagulls in shallow water.

rock-crab-shell

Once they’re done eating, seagulls often leave the inedible part of their meal along the trail.  A Rock Crab shell covered with frost caught my eye as it glistened in the sunlight among the large rocks and straw on the edge of the trail.

stones-reflecting-on-the-meaning-of-life

On the way out of the marsh, the light of the risen sun revealed reflections of stones and trees in the water that weren’t apparent earlier.

trees-reflecting-on-the-meaning-of-life

For more spring images along the Salt Marsh Trail, see https://flandrumhill.wordpress.com/2009/04/11/spring-along-the-salt-marsh-trail/

For more information about the Salt Marsh Trail, see https://flandrumhill.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/the-salt-marsh-trail/

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whelk

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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