Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Signs, portents and mysteries resolved



Gorgeous, perfect shells wash into some beaches so often the inhabitants of those shores line their window ledges and gardens with the gifts from the sea.
Other beaches are stingy with such offerings. I found these lovely, fragile shells at Venice Beach in California. It is not a shell beach. Often it's shore break pounds the sand and what little is left is broken. But on one walk I picked up all these, including the tiny angel wings at the bottom of the photo. I felt like a kid on an Easter egg hunt to have found so many treasures in one day.
And it happened during November when I was writing the beginning of my new novel that takes place in the sea. I happily added this sign to others popping up around me--a license plate in front of me with two mermaids, a kelp forest sheet of stamps and others. But the one I made a big deal about was the tiny, worn sea shell I found on an inland mountain.
Yesterday, I solved the mystery of the shell so far from the ocean. And, phooey, it isn't magical but mundane.
I was hiking up a side trail made of decomposed granite. The same one where I found the shell. A rainstorm had roared through the day before and eroded the trail, so there were new gullies. As I walked, I saw another shell! I dug it out of the damp earth, amazed. And then I saw another! And another.

How could this be? Had I stumbled upon an ancient cache of shells?
As the evidence mounted and I picked up a handful of discolored, tough old shells, I had a dawning realization.


Sandbags. Of course. Sometimes the park workers put sandbags along the trails to keep them from eroding. The shells had probably been in bags that disintegrated over time.
Well, darn. I was deflated and put down my handful of collected shells and snapped another photo. But just as I was chiding myself for believing in signs and portents, I thought, it doesn't matter how the shells got here. I've been hiking this mountain for years and never saw a shell until November, and now I see dozens.
It is a sign for me to believe in me--in my curiosity, my imagination, my desire to be open to whatever comes my way.
What do you think? Are there nudges from the universe, or do we see what we want to see?

23 comments:

Abby Annis said...

I believe that things happen for a reason, but I also think that sometimes things just happen. It's up to each of us to find the meaning, and sometimes there may only be meaning because we want it to be there, but how can that hurt? Especially when it leads to something good. And I can't help feeling that if you grow at all from an experience that there was some divine purpose, even if it was small.

Robyn Campbell said...

I believe both Tricia. I think that we do see what we want to see, sure. I also believe that God puts things in our path to help us become convinced of our own imagination and creativity. I know that happened for you.

And it wasn't mundane at all! I'd call it EXOTIC! :)

Stephanie Thornton said...

I think we can find inspiration anywhere, mundane or extraordinary. I think it was Stephen King that said there are inspirations for stories everywhere- hundreds a day. A normal person may notice one, but a writer will notice a few- maybe five or so.

Andrea Cremer said...

Sometimes the universe nudges, others it just shoves you.

Amazing post, Tricia!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Abby: You're right. If we grow, that's what matters.

Robyn: Exotic, whew! I do feel it was bigger than it seems.

Stephanie: Interesting thought that inspiration has roots in observation and processing.

Andrea: I'll consider myself shoved! Thanks. ;)

PJ Hoover said...

I saw the pic and though it was a skull. What does that mean?
Yes, we have to keep our eyes open and look to the universe.

Tabitha Bird said...

I think they are nudges from the universe. After all they have only just appeared to you:)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

PJ: A skull! That's creative, indeed. I'm definitely keeping my eyes open.

Tabitha: Nudged is good. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

You have the most fascinating posts! I am getting so addicted to your photos and their mystery images! Keep them coming. :)

Anonymous said...

Very cool post, Tricia. And finding all those shells in one day on a beach that's usually sparse, hey, I'd be jazzed and take it as a sign, too. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign -- remember that song? Okay, so those are different signs in the song! I'm just playing around. Seriously, I do believe in signs, fer sure. And all those little things that you listed are great signs, an affirmation that you're on the right course. I believe God speaks to us through other people and through signs, big and little. Most of the time, I think we're too preoccupied to even notice, so pat yourself on the back for acknowledging the signs. Hope you have more signs to cheer you on to finish your novel and send it out. You have a great talent for writing, Tricia. Keep going.
Lynnerd

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Shannon: That is the coolest comment! I'll do my best.

Lynnerd: Wow, another wonderful comment. Sometimes I think it's all the little things, whether they are signs or friendly gestures, that keep us going. So thank you, indeed.

Bish Denham said...

However the shells got there, you were meant to find them. Around here, far from the ocean, we have TONS of fossilized remains of sea shells from millions of years ago when this area was under water. I love looking for them and have a nice collection.

Linda Kage said...

I suppose a sandbag could be just as much a sign to you as a gift from the sea. Shrug.

I'm amazed at all the amazing pictures you have to share. You live near some truly beautiful scenery.

Lisa and Laura said...

Of course it's a sign! Whether it's from the Universe or from within you, it's a sign of good things to come.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Bish: At first I wanted to think they were ancient, but I knew they weren't fossils. I love that you have a collection. Old things that span history always give me pleasure and some strange sort of solace.

Linda: Ooooo, that's a neat way to look at it. And thanks!

LiLa: Yay, I love seeing it that way--thank you!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

As my one of my favorite quotes says, "The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."

Way to see the signs! :)

Donna said...

The sea is communicating with you everywhere!

Lisa Dez said...

Perception is truth. If there can't possibly be shells in the mountains, then you could walk through and ocean of them and never see them. It's fascinating.

But when you open up the possibility...look what happens.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Karen: Oh, I like to think it's because my wits are sharp, yes, yes, yes! ;)

Donna: Maybe I have starfish earrings or a shell-phone. Ha!

Lisa: Your insight is fascinating, and you are so right. We can look right through things we don't believe are there. Lovely thoughts.

Terresa said...

I vote for nudges from the universe! I see them everyday, when I slow down enough to look, listen, pray.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Terresa: You're right. The key is not rushing through life but being aware.

Mary Anne Gruen said...

I think the universe was definitely giving you a sign. The fact that it found a way to bring you a gift from the sea in an inland mountain is pretty amazing!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Welcome Mary Anne! Oooo, I like the way you put that--found a way to bring a gift from sea to mountain. That's worth pondering.