Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Gift from the Sea

A trip to the seashore will always empty my mind of its shadows.  I feel elated just preparing to go, and if something interferes, it pains me greatly and illogically.  Fortunately, there are seastrands in every direction, a mile or two away.  The destination and frequency of my outings are determined by our olive harvesting schedule, the weather, and whether there is a hill close-by on which to park (the starter on our vintage Renault hasn't worked in months). I prefer the beaches in winter as there is not another soul to be found there.  Also the temperatures then are usually ideal for an Alaskan. 

Giannis gathering firewood in the gulf of Geras near Kountouroudia

Wherever I go, the sea has retracted the bounty it previously spread and has churned up and spewed out a whole new assortment for my perusal.   I stroll systematically, trying to cover as much ground as possible and to bring everything into my range of focus  I open my eyes and open them again, not wanting to miss a softened nugget of bright beach glass or maybe a heart-shaped stone.  With each pass I slow down and stoop and look more intensely. Things that weren't visible the first time around suddenly leap into existence: a keyhole limpet, a whole carpet of tiny luminous monodonta sea snails, a gnarly driftroot with anthropomorphic features.  I bend to look at one thing and out of the corner of my eye something even more awesome appears.

A tiny aqua-blue bottle bottom

Agios Ermogenis in January

Everywhere I go there are sea-softened pottery shards that ask to be flipped over lest there is a glazed patch, some throwers marks, or very rarely, an etched design underneath. Once on a lonely beach I found a small terra cotta piece on which some ancient potter had drawn geometric stairsteps and meanders.  It was submerged for eons and then resurrected at my feet.  Another time I flipped a creamy curved shard and gasped to see a blue anchor on the bottom side. ( I researched the design and learned that the little shard contained an entire story which I'll tell later).  My highlight thus far was when my husband Giannis smilingly handed me the side of a pale yellow-glazed bowl upon which was incised the head of a Byzantine peacock  He asked "Is this what you were looking for?"  I nearly swooned.

Blue anchor from the Royal British Navy circa WWI

A Byzantine peacock and something yet more ancient

Sometimes the courses of events are truly awesome. Last winter I was enticed to the shore at Xaramida after a stormy week.  It is wide open to the Aegean and rarely produces much more than wonderful rounded rocks and driftwood.  On this day, however, I  found myself zigzagging across the mile-long beach from one beautiful seashell to another, as if something was pulling me to them. My favorite find that day was a barnacle-covered clay jar handle, the remainder of a storage vessel.  Exactly one year later, Giannis and I went there just before dusk in search of firewood and/or dimensional lumber.  I left the car running (it's flat there) and didn't take but five steps when I saw another barnacley handle in about the same place that I found the one the year before.  When I brought it home and put them together, I realized they are so much alike that they probably came from the same pot.

Twin pot handles found a year apart

I have to restrain myself from bringing the whole beach home because my upstairs studio/storage room is starting to burst. Giannis says it's going to come crashing down on us one day.  But there are so many creative possibilities in every shell or humble stone, and I know that an idea will come to me in my dreams that incorporates them in ways I could not foresee.  However, I try to keep in mind the following:

 "The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea." ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

And always, I thank the sea for her gifts, just in case she might be listening. 

Orpheus the Wanderer, 2012
Driftwood, pumice, haliotis tuberculotis, a sea urchin and its stoma,
barnacles, monodonta shells, arca noae shell, and sea silk

Some of my favorite seathings

The gifts of a one-hour stroll


  1. Sandy, this is truly a beautiful blog, I LOVE your stories and photos! I beg you to continue writing and posting, please do! :-)
    I saw my Orpheus there - I am so happy he came back to me, thank you so much!

    1. Thank you so much for your kindness and inspiration Yael. I'm very glad you have Orpheus again and I'm so happy you guided me back to my blog. Thank you for being here!

  2. What a beautiful blog you have! Yael introduced me to you, and I'm a happy visitor!!!

    1. Hi Dawn and welcome to my little blog! I'm glad Yael introduced us and so happy that you came for a visit. :) Thank you!!

  3. The beautiful shore pictures, and there are so many things along the shore, thanks Sandy.

  4. Great pictures, and the store lines are amazing, keep it up Sandy.

    1. I'm really happy you like my photos and little stories! That means a lot to me. Thank you Bob!