This week as part of my spring break celebration, I was able to escape to the beach for a few days. Unwinding was so necessary – more this year than any other. Working at an elementary school, while incredibly rewarding, is also very stressful at times. COVID has compounded the stress. It is evident in the teachers and the students. Although we try to handle and manage our stress, we were losing the battle just before spring break. We all needed some space to relax, renew, and revive our low spirits. I definitely needed a time out, a time to sit on the sidelines preferably in the warm sunshine.
I was fortunate to be able to grab a few days in South Carolina. The sun and seventy-degree weather immediately boosted my mood. Blue skies, ocean breeze, southern hospitality all helped cure my stress-filled mind. I sat in the sun by the pool and let my mind drift. I forced myself not to take use technology until night time, and then only for short while. I gradually left the world behind.
One day at the beach, I walked along peacefully intent on taking photographs of shells and other bits of nature that the ocean tide delivered on the sand. I sought out colorful shapes: golden yellow, pale pink, deep purple, and luminous blue. I was deep in thought, in the flow of the moment. I felt truly happy. Then all of a sudden a woman approached me, her blond hair whipping around her face. She said excitedly, “There are sand dollars on the shoreline. There’s lots of them along the ocean edge, if you want to take photos.” I looked up at her, a little stunned trying to gather in what she was telling me. “Thank you, I’ll go and look,” I said, heading down towards the waves. I walked intently along the shoreline, head down and camera ready. I found pearly white clam shells, rippled scallop shells, and a piece of a horseshoe crab. Then I spied something round and sand-colored half submerged in the water. I kept walking and quickly came upon sand dollar after sand dollar. They were about three inches in diameter but all in a variety of shades from deep tan, to light green, pink, and purple. I didn’t know they could be so many colors. I had never seen a live sand dollar. As a child, I found a few pieces of white sand dollar, which means that they are not alive. Only the test remains which is like a brittle white shell. But these Carolina creatures were alive and there was a tribe of thirty or more. I clicked away, trying to capture their beauty with my camera. I sloshed at the water’s edge, not caring that my sneakers were getting soaked. I came to a rocky jetty that was encrusted with oyster shells. People were bending over the tide pools between the stones picking up spider crabs, snails, cowrie shells, and a couple of huge conch shells. The cowrie and conch had snail inside. What a wonder! The ocean was alive, and I was able to witness these small wonders. I didn’t want to leave the beach. I could have stayed all afternoon. This day reminded me of summer days in my youth when I would be on the beach for the entire day: swimming, digging in the sand, building sand castles, and walking along the shoreline collecting all manner of sea treasures.
I am so blessed to have found this sanctuary. I was amazed, later that night, to find out that the sand dollar is a symbol of luck, and I had made the acquaintance of thirty of them! Lucky indeed. I read the legend of the sand dollar and how it reflects the life of Christ. The top of the sand dollar has five slits, which represent Jesus’s wounds when he was on the cross. The star on the sand dollar represents the star of Bethlehem. On the underside of the sand dollar, there is an outline of what looks like a poinsettia, which is often called the Christmas flower. Indeed, I am so lucky that I came across a stranger who pointed me in the right direction. The day proved to be the sanctuary I needed so desperately. Nature’s beauty does so much to restore the soul.