There is one friend in the life of each of us who seems not a separate person,
however dear and beloved, but an expansion, an interpretation, of one's self,
the very meaning of one's soul.
Today I would like to share with you a little story about a friendship I hold dear to my heart.
She also happens to be the "other" Shellbelle.
Karen and I at The Bailey Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island
Karen and I met almost fifteen years ago while working together as servers at one of the many local seafood restaurants in Clearwater, Florida. We were overworked, underpaid and I don't think she really knew what to make of this transplanted California gal. I know I drove Karen (and everyone else) crazy with my incessant conversations that included the phrase, "in California, we…". It was a hard transition for me, but eventually I came to embrace the difference in cultures between the South and the West. You have to remember that I was born in the South and I was raised by Southern parents. Anyway, back to my story.
In the course of our budding friendship, which included a bomb threat at the aforementioned establishment, Karen and I discovered we both loved shelling and that started the bonding process. We spent countless hours on countless beaches in our pursuit of these gems. Buckets filled and garages bulged. We had to find something to do with them and crafting was the natural solution. We loved it…even did a few art shows. We called ourselves The Shellbelles and while we didn't make our fortune, we had a great time and our friendship was cemented. All these years later, Shellbelle is what I chose for my screen name, this brings precious memories to me of shelling with a wonderful friend.
There are countless stories I could tell of our adventures, but my favorite one took place on Honeymoon Island.
To get to Honeymoon Island, you drive about five minutes over the Dunedin Causeway, park your car and get ready to walk one of the most gorgeous beaches you've ever seen. Well, Karen and I have done this numerous times, but I'll never forget the day we reached the end of the island just as the sun was setting. The view was spectacular! AND THEN, when we turned to head back, the moon was rising in the opposite direction. So, to the West, the sky was full of oranges, reds and yellows AND to the East the sky was full of blues and purples. This was in the days before digital cameras, so there are no photos to show you, but the memory will be forever emblazoned in my mind. There is one thing you should know about Honeymoon Island, it is a State Park and closes at dusk.
Honeymoon Island is about four miles long, so you can see we had to walk a bit over two miles and we only had a couple of minutes to do it! So, we start back, lugging our full buckets of shells and trying not to look down for any shells we may have missed along the way. Honest, we really tried, but this is hard for a sheller, it goes against our very nature. Thinking that we might not make it before the gate closes and that we'd be spending the night on the beach, we picked up the pace as best we could given the circumstance. Then off in the distance we see the ranger's jeep heading in our direction. Rescued! We did figure we'd be in trouble. How could we explain that we got caught up in the sunset and the moonrise? "Sir, the sky was incredible, it wouldn't let us go. We were trapped like deers in headlights, transfixed by nature.Please, don't take us to jail."
We needn't have worried though, the young man who picked us up got out of the jeep with a big smile on his face. Whew! He told us that they had to drive out to the end of the island everyday to make sure there were no stragglers. The fact that Karen had homemade brownies with her, that she quickly offered to our rescuer, didn't hurt. In fact, he told us that he wouldn't mind picking us up in the future, if we ever found ourselves in the same predicament.
Yep, the stories could go on and on. Like Christmas Eve 2000, when we hit the shell motherlode at the North Jetty in Nokomis, Florida…
Karen blogs about that experience on her post titled, Shellbelle Shells Seashells by the Seashore.
Love that title! What? I didn't mention she now has a blog? What do you think the purpose of this post is? Hah! Tricked you didn't I? Yep, after much prodding and cajoling, Karen has finally started her own blog! I am so excited and would LOVE for you to drop by, say hello and give her some encouragement.
The Essential Beachcomber is about shelling, of course, junkin' and living the good life on the Gulf of Mexico. A native Floridian, Karen can tell you the best beaches to go to, the best beaches to find shark's teeth and she even provides a map to the finest "Junke Shoppes" in the area! While you're there, you'll find out why I love this woman so, she is a rare spirit, who looks at the world and sees all the good around us. She is a rock and her love for family shines through. I am proud to call her my friend. She has always been there for me, driving over an hour and a half to sit and pray with my mother when she was near the end of her life's journey. She has been there for me in the good times and has seen me through the rough times. She is always just a phone call away when I need a shoulder. She is my absolute favorite shelling buddy and we have BIG plans to go night shelling together in November. Two beach gals who LOVE shelling, life is good.
The Essential Beachcomber at Play
Karen with her hubby. Look at that sky!
Karen, I will always cherish you and hold you dear. You are my favorite treasure I found at the beach.
This was the story of two women, one friendship and their love of the shore.