Friday, August 27, 2010

The Other Shellbelle

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. 
~Edith Wharton

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.

27 Thoughtful Comments:

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Oh, what an incredible post Rhonda!
I was just captivated! I loved this story and I know in my heart I'm a Shellbelle too! I need to find that beach next time I go to Florida. Please direct me to the right part of the state.
And I will check out your friends blog too!

Anonymous said...

Good pictures and a heartwarming tale of friendship, perfect! Thanks.

Blondie's Journal said...

A great post about true friendship. I have to check out her post and meet the other Shellbelle!!


rjerdee said...

Nice story, Rhonda! Now I know what's going on with "Kaybe" who seemed to have been a silent follower with a blog that never went anywhere...until recently. She does a nice job on it, too. Lots more clever than I--I loved her video of the waves crashing on the shore one windy day.

Sue said...

This was such a great post and a wonderful way to introduce us to your friend.

Melissa said...

What a beautiful tribute to a long-lasting friendship.

Linda@Coastal Charm said...

What a wonderful post about friendship...going over to check out her new blog!


PS Did you get my e-mail with the recipe?

nancygrayce said...

Friends are the best. That was such a sweet post and a great tribute to your friend.

Anonymous said...

I think Karen found a treasure, too.

While I love NC beaches, I sure would like to spend a few days shelling in FL again. YOWSAH, the motherlode!

Flotsam Friends said...

That is the most beautiful story!! I love hearing about your adventures. I so wish I was closer to see and feel the things you describe here. What an amazing place and friendship. Kindest, Pruxxx

Terri Smith said...

Rhonda, this beautiful post brought me to tears. It is absolutely the sweetest tribute to friendship that I've come across in I don't know how long. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely story.

Aaah, and thanks for the nice compliment regarding my newest shell piece. :)) Made my day!

I got a chuckle from how you think my soldering area wasn't as messy as you would have imagined. All I can say is these days I find if I keep my area as uncluttered as possible, it might keep me from burning the house down. LOL! I've burned my clothes..the chair seat I sit in..and the floor beneath me. After all that..I've learned to be very careful.

Enjoyed your visit!

Ms. Bake-it said...

Hello Rhonda,

This post is a beautiful tribute to your friendship! Sounds like you two have had some wonderful times together. I just came back from visiting her and am now her newest follower. Thanks for the introduction.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend!


jmac said...

Man, oh man.....did I ever need to read this tonight! Thank you for such an uplifting story..and girlfriends! My friends are ranked right up there with family and I rely on them for everything...the number uno thing being FUN!! So neat to read about you and your buddy...keep her close, love her lots and tell her often!
Thanks for your kind words on my blob today...thank you.

The Decorative Dreamer said...

I will visit Karen in the morning. She sounds like a wonderful friend to have. Any friend that would linger around a beach all day with you looking for shells then stop to notice a beautiful sunset is one so worth having in my book. I forgot to mention all the while doing this while carrying homemade brownies too! Wow! You both are so blessed to have found each other. Enjoyed this post very much. Have a great weekend!

Kaybe said...

Rhonda, I hardly know what to say except I love you oodles & boodles. You should tell the story about watching the lunar eclipse on IRB eating take-out Thai, St. Aurbuck's, and reesie cups. Oh Oh and camping where you whipped out your Coleman espresso maker and the tiny Coleman demetisse cups. You even brought the little whip to froth up the milk. Good times Darlin! and many more to come.


iLoveShelling said...

Thank goodness for girlfriends. How would we survive? That just warmed my heart right up...... and made me even more excited for shelling in November!

Loui♥ said...

this is one FABULOUS post!..
really hit home in the friends I've known and loved department!
and I have one or two just such..
we've shared the ups and downs of life over the years..always there to support each other through it all..
thanks for the kind and loving will always be the CHOSEN MermaidSister of my heart!!
love you!!
warm sandy hugs.. Loui♥
ps.. am sending cool dry sunny breezes your way on this gloomy day..♥

Sherrie said...

Such a beautiful post and gorgeous images! Thank you for sharing.

Maya @ Completely Coastal said...

You're blessed with awesome friends, Shellbelle!!! A shelling buddy..., that's so great!

CHERI said...

Rhonda, first of all...thank you SO much for the helpful comment you left on my blog. I am definitely going to take your advice. Now about your post....what a sweet friend! I am definitely going to visit her blog. I too love looking for shells. It's like finding little treasures, isn't it? My mother-in-law used to be a HUGE...I mean REALLY HUGE...sheller. I now have an attic full of shells because when we down-sized her last year I just couldn't bear to sell them or give them away. The rest of the family wanted to throw them away!!!!! Can you imagine???? Don't know what I'll do with them but I just can't let them go...yet. Are there shells at St. Mary's? I never find any over at Jekyll!

Lindsay-ann said...

Hi Rhonda
I loved hearing about how you and your friend became the two Shellbelles! I really enjoyed your post and the beautiful pictures. You know all the best places for shell picking I am sure.
When we were last in Clearwater we went on a boat trip organized by The Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The boat stopped at a tiny island for shelling and I collected a bag full of shells. You see I must be a Shellebelle too! I brought them home with me and now have them in a glass vase so I can remember our time there.
Going over to say hi to your friend now.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Beautiful Rhonda
Sounds like a wonderful friendship.. and as they should be... I'll pop over and say hello...

Speaking of saying hello.. sorry I will email you soon.. another crazy week over at Chez Julie. Hope you are having a wonderful weekend.. xxx Julie

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Oh.. and that Toni Morrison quote.. how wonderful!!! I'll be saving that!!.. xxx Julie

Jane said...

What a wonderful tribute to friendship! I loved hearing you talk about your friend when we had lunch together. I really need to go shelling with you guys to learn your techniques. Hmmmm....been caught on Honeymoon Island, too. The rangers are quite nice about it...

Thanks for your sweet comments re: Mom.

Hugs to you...
Jane (artfully graced)

Drawn to The Sea said...

I don't think that's the end of the story at all... not even close :-))

Beach House Living said...

A lovely story but not over...just more chapters to add.

Jenny said...

What a lovely tribute to friendship! This was lovely, start to finish.

It made me homesick for some of my dearest friends who still live in Ohio.

I'm so glad you stopped by my blog so I could visit yours.

I love the beach and everything that goes with it! I love the waves lapping at my feet. I love the feel of the sand between my toes. I love the roar of the Pacific and the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. Let's talk about beaches around the world, bonfires, building sandcastles, swaying palm trees, flamingos, clambakes, sunrises and sunsets. If it's tropical, it fits this blog!


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