One of the best things about visiting a beach is scanning the shoreline to see what types of seashells are there. I’ve seen a quote saying, “seashells are love letters in the sand,” which is far more romantic than saying they’re the exoskeletons of sea creatures that have died and rotted out or been eaten by other sea creatures. This is, of course, what they actually are, but poets don’t become poets by bluntly pointing it out. Gazing across a sandy beach, there’s a beautiful variety of shells, each one glinting in the sun. For those who collect them, it’s a hunt for a perfectly formed and unique specimen, but for me, I just enjoy looking at them where they’ve landed. And just in case they are indeed love letters, then I also don’t have to worry about taking someone else’s mail.

Most people love seashells precisely because they’ve been emptied of their inhabitants. Finding a lovely shell is not quite as romantic when you discover there’s still something soft and gooey living inside. Then it’s just gross. Once they’ve been cleaned and are sitting in a jar, however, they simply become a beautiful reminder of a wonderful day at the beach. I’ve never collected shells because once they’ve traveled so far inland with me, they lose all context and I find it a bit sad. It just makes me want to go to the beach again and I know I can’t for some time. I realize it should bring back the wonderful memories, but I always just feel a little bit of loss.

So, I leave them where I see them. Shining in the sunlight, waiting for someone else to give them a good home. I’m happy in my discovery at the time, though, and feel almost giddy upon finding one that has an interesting coloring or is particularly unusual. And that feeling of the experience, just in that moment, is all I really need to take home with me. It’s a beautiful instance in time, where I see something beautiful and enjoy it for what it is. A tiny home. A little place where a creature once lived until it was time to move on to wherever it is creatures go next. The gentle reminder that we’re all here for just a brief moment on this planet, but as an artist we can also leave something beautiful behind. A little painted picture that someone discovers years later, thoroughly excited to have finally found a love letter in the sand.

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About the Doodlewash

M. Graham Watercolors:  Gamboge, Quinacridone Rose, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Blue. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon sepia ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal.
Day 9 #WorldWatercolorGroup Finding Seashells Are Love Letters In The Sand And Other Things

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33 thoughts on “Finding Seashells

  1. Lovely rendering of the varied textures of the shell. I must be totally unromantic because I prefer the idea of the shells being the remains of dead sea creatures. I don’t like sand so I’ve always preferred rocky beaches where I can pootle around looking in rock pools and finding interesting beasties. I especially love the squashy marshmallow feeling of anemones.

  2. Absolutely beautiful painting of one of nature’s most amazing creations. Even the shadow is exquisite in its delicacy. Leaving the mail in the sand for the correct recipient. Who but you?

    You have a very special way of seeing the world, Charlie. I always find something to make me think for the next few hours of the day.

    1. Awww thanks, Sharon! 😃💕 I’m glad you liked this one…It didn’t quite come out like I envisioned, but that happens most of the time. And glad you like my rambling thoughts. Hehe I figure it’s light a double feature this way. How I see the world not just in my paintings, but also in words.

  3. Oh I am a beach and ocean gal, away from the river, of course 🙂 I love beachcombing and I think the most shells that I have ever encountered on a beach was Ft. Pierce, Florida….amazing to see seashells everywhere! love your shell and of course your story.

  4. I have a huge glass vase filled with shells in my bathroom that my father-in-law collected. It is a wonderful reminder of him and his love of exploring! 🐚💕 And now I can think of them as love letters from the sea! 💜 Thanks Charlie and what a lovely Doodlewash today! 🏖

    1. Thanks so much, Jill! 😃💕 That’s so wonderful!! I actually didn’t really understand what the love letters thing meant…sounded like just an oblique romantic phrase. But hearing your story, gives it a real meaning! That’s so wonderful!! For you they truly are love letters. 😃Beautiful!! 🐚

  5. I’m in awe of how well you capture the colors of things and make them look so lifelike! This is truly gorgeous! <3 Have you ever seen to Sanibel, FL? It's the best shelling beach I've seen in North America. 🙂

  6. Oh yes, not enough ohs and ahs for this Doodlewash Charlie!
    It is splendid all together, the color of the Shell but in a way I am really touched by your words in this story!
    A shell seeker and lover I am.
    The most beautiful shells I have found in Barbados on the Pacific (dangerous) coast!
    These days I have a collection of little ones in a jar, a kind of normal one’s you can find on the coast in Holland.
    Thank you so much Charlie for this beautiful story Today!

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