"Listen to the ocean!" my mother used to tell me. Back in the early '60s the Jersey Shore had big conch shells cast onto the beach. They were everywhere. I was a short little towhead with a buzz cut and snazzy white sunglasses. I picked up a shell and held it to my ear. Sure enough, it had the echo of the ocean deep inside it.
I haven't found a conch shell in years. They suddenly disappeared from the Jersey Shore long ago. They were replaced by shimmering gobs of jellyfish matter. We'd poke at the inanimate matter with a driftwood stick, trying to see if it had life. It turns out that once a jellyfish turns to goo, it's the point of no return. DNR.
Not long ago I found a sand dollar which was the most exciting thing I'd found on the beach in years. I took it home but felt instantly guilty for my acquisitive impulse. My greediness deprived others from seeing tiny miracle of the sea. Did it make it more special to call it mine? No more taking of anything except for photographs, or maybe making a sketch of two. Maybe the conches disappeared because early beachcombers were putting them in their beach bags and taking them home. What good does a shell or a sand dollar do on a book shelf other than collect dust?
Today's image is the second sand vignette from Muir Beach. The retreating surf leaves such lovely trails in the sand. Finding them and photographing their delicate tracery feels much more satisfying than snatching things from beaches.