Gifts come in many forms. Some wrapped, some written, some plucked from the side of the roadway. Flowers, music, books, chocolate, wine are all received with gratitude. My favorites, however, are most often those found in nature: a hummingbird hovering nearby, eye contact with a sea turtle just off shore, a whale breaching within sight of the dune. And sunrise — the magical kaleidoscope of shifting colors just before the sun pushes above the horizon.
On Jan. 17, my birthday wish was to extend my normal morning walk all the way to the Boynton Inlet. My husband joined me and as the sun rose on a spectacularly beautiful, crisp, clear day, we picked up bits of sea glass and lovely little shells as we strolled along. The morning was surely a gift.
As my bare footprints followed me north, living starfish and sea cucumbers washed ashore. This doesn’t happen often on this stretch of beach, so we joined other beachcombers in returning them to the sea in hopes the incoming tide would carry them back beneath the waves. It was a shared effort in a good cause.
At the north end of Boynton Beach’s Oceanfront Park, a large shell rolled up the empty, smooth beach and landed near my feet. I was giddy. In my 35 years of walking this beach, I’d never found a shell like this. It was flawless and beautiful. I looked around to see if someone perhaps had placed it there, but saw only two young women on beach chairs, staring hard into their cellphones. I scooped up the shell and walked on. They never looked up.
What was this shell, where did it come from and how did it end up on this beach at this moment? My shell book provided few answers.
I decided to search out a shell expert to determine how rare a find it was. On the Broward Shell Club Facebook page I posted a photo and a description of where the shell was found.
Members of the page were as blown away as I was. I was getting psyched that maybe I’d found something truly rare and valuable.
Then one of the administrators posted: “GREAT SHELL! Sadly, it must have been dropped there because it is found Live in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Not the Atlantic.”
He included a Wikipedia link for Tonna tessellata. There it was, my shell from another ocean.
I’ll likely never know who left this gift on a cold January morning, but I thank them. It reminds me that not only are the best gifts often from nature, but also sometimes from complete strangers.
— Mary Kate Leming, Editor