Monday, September 6, 2010

Eye of the beholder

Most of you know that I have a passion for seashells and I've shared many photos of the ones around my home. Today I thought I'd show you two of my favorites, both are equally gorgeous in my eyes.

The first is a Queen Conch (Strombus gigas)…

Isn't it a beauty? Queen conch has been listed in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) since 1992 and in Florida they are listed as a protected species, making it illegal to gather any specimens. Collecting live shells is a BAD thing! If you pick up a shell and it has a critter living inside, please admire its beauty and then gently replace it in its natural environment. So, how did I end up with this specimen you ask? In 1985, I was vacationing in Jamaica and one day we went out on a glass bottom boat for an afternoon of snorkeling. The water there is clear and beautiful. I spotted this conch on the bottom and dove numerous times until I brought it to the surface. Yes, the conch was still alive! Before I could say anything, the captain of our boat took the shell from me and with a wire extracted the flesh lickety-split and proudly handed the empty shell to me once I was back onboard. In Jamaica, conch is popular in soup, curries and fritters. Nowadays, conch harvesting in Jamaica is seasonal, but 25 years ago our captain was pleased that his passenger had not only found a shell, but had provided his family with a nice meal.

For those who don't know and because I hear it said wrong all the time, conch is pronounced "konk."

Now this next prized shell specimen may surprise you…

This is what is left of a Horse conch (Pleuroploca gigantea) after many, many years in the ocean. I have no idea just how old it is, I'll leave that to the experts, but this is high on my list of favorites. To me, it's like a piece of sculpture that the sea created over time. Others would quickly pass by something like this in their quest for perfect specimens. I love how the areas that have been broken away, expose the inside intricacies of this beautiful shell. The spire and the siphonal canal are missing, but the body whorl is left exposed for us to see inside. When they are young, Horse conchs are a bright orange, but as they become adults this color fades, eventually becoming the greyish white you see here. This inside is smooth and shiny like marble. The edges are rough, but have been smoothed enough to not be sharp.

Horse conchs are the largest gastropod in the United States and can grow to be 24 inches. In a side-by-side comparison to another from my collection, you can see that this one must have been close to that. About half the outside is covered with sediment, including barnacles and bits of other shells. Again, this has been worn smooth.

What do you think? Would you pick up a shell fragment like this? To me, it is as beautiful as my Queen conch.

Now you can find broken shells all over the beach, but they're usually not anywhere near this size. Typically, you'd have to be skindiving to spot something like this. My acquisition of this masterpiece is the result of the storms and hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast of Florida.

In 1985, yes the same year I was in Jamaica, in fact, it was the week that included Labor Day weekend, Hurricane Elena made her erratic trek up the Gulf Coast. She just couldn't make up her mind where she wanted to go, so the predictions were all over the place. I had come out from California to visit my parents for a week before heading to Jamaica for ten days and then coming back to Florida before heading home. Nothing like having a hurricane mess up your vacation plans. I did make it to Jamaica on time, but not before Elena decided to sit about 80 miles offshore from Indian Rocks Beach, forcing us to evacuate for four days. Now you have to understand that I was vacationing and not paying particular attention to the weather reports, so mom and I were out shopping and lunching. We stopped at Wade's Seafood to buy shrimp and fish for dinner before heading back home. Elena was supposed to be headed to Mississippi and while that is where she eventually made landfall, she made a loop and headed back our way. We arrived back in time to find out the island was on voluntary evacuation and everyone was driving in the opposite direction from us! We quickly brought in the outdoor furniture and battened down the hatches, before heading inland to a hotel. Later that evening it became a mandatory evacuation. Thankfully most of our neighbors had already left, we don't fool around when it comes to hurricanes. Well, Elena sat out there for days, whipping up quite a mess onshore. Indian Rocks Beach residents were the last to be allowed to return and let me tell you, it was a mess. Luckily, our home was built to withstand hurricane force winds and the resulting flooding. Living quarters were on the second floor and the downstairs, as we found out, was watertight. Neighbors right on the beach and the intercoastal were not so lucky. Still, it was nothing compared to a Katrina-type storm. There was one thing that was missing though…the beach! I dug up some pictures to show you the difference a few days can make when a hurricane sits offshore.

This first picture is me shelling back in 1979, the year my parents bought our home in Indian Rocks Beach. See the nice big expanse of beach?

Well, here it is after Miss Elena made her presence known…

The sand was all swept out to sea and the waterline was now right at the seawall.

Now you're probably wondering what all this has to do with my seashell. When this type of destruction occurs along the shore, the powers that be eventually come up with a plan for renourishing the beaches. If this is not done, the same area will suffer much more dire consequences when more storms pass through and in Florida and other Gulf states this is inevitable. Florida is a tourist spot and without gorgeous beaches, that tourism will wither away. Sea turtles and birds who nest on these shores will not have homes to come to and breed. Did you know that sea turtles return to the beach where they hatched to lay their eggs? Cool, huh?

So seven years later, in 1992 they started restoring our beaches and over the years this project continued to the north. Sometime around 1995–96 they started pumping sand on Clearwater Beach. It was around this time that my friend Karen of The Essential Beachcomber and I hit the mounds. Yes, they go way offshore and dredge sand to build the beaches back up. Now what do you think can be found in this sand? Why seashells, of course! That is where I found my special seashell.

I am obsessed with seashells and I take lots of photos of them. Have you ever wondered why? Well, first I love to show them to you. I've shown you pics of some of the things I've made and I know you've seen some really talented shell artists around Blogland who sell their wonderful crafts in their Etsy stores and I have a strong desire to get organized and open up one of my own, but last year I took this photo…

and turned it into this…

Seashell shoes!

Yes, I design Keds for my Zazzle store and this is my personal favorite. They remind you of walking on a beach with every step. If your interested you can see them in my store here.

Here's a few more views, I put a baby starfish on back…

Yeah, I guess you could say I'm obsessed.

I hope you have a wonderful week. I know I've been absent a bit lately, I'm moving again!!!! Yes, over the weekend I went and found a house to share with two other folks my age. I think this is going to be a much better situation than the one here in Saint Marys. I've been lonely since my dog Sheldon passed away and having someone to share expenses with is a good thing. The house is gorgeous, with a full on gourmet kitchen and a fabulous backyard that includes an outdoor fireplace. My room is really tiny, that will be a challenge, but the rest of the house is glorious and I think I'll be much happier there. Plus, I'll only be about 30 minutes from my cousin Jackie, you know, the one who lives in Neptune Beach, Florida. Yes folks, I'm moving BACK to Flordia, Jacksonville to be exact. The neighborhood is GREAT and there are lots of restaurants and shops nearby. I'm moving at the end of the month, so I won't be doing a lot of posting for the next few weeks, I have to pack AGAIN! I will try to get out to visit all of you, but I'm doing most of this by myself this time. It's a drag when you move away from your friends and family, especially when you could use some help, lol.

Take care, I will miss you, but it won't be long before I'm back! Love you all!

Oh! One thing before I go, I want to show you how well the beach restoration project went in Indian Rocks Beach. Here is a photo I took last summer…

Better than before, the beach is gorgeous and all the new sea oats and other vegetation is helping to protect our beach from further erosion. Well, at least until another hurricane decides to come our way…

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trash Today, Track Tomorrow

Do you have a pair of old, dirty tennis shoes in the bottom of your closet? I know I have several. I usually save them to use when I'm mowing the lawn or to wear when I painting. They do reach a point when you know they must go, but where do they end up? Probably a landfill somewhere to sit for eternity. Well, according to Nike…

If you thought your kicks had seen their last play, think again. As Nike Grind, they could become part of an athletic surface, such as a court, track, field or playground – and pre-consumer material could even get used in new shoes and apparel.

Nearly two decades ago, Nike began looking for a way to reduce the company's environmental footprint and reduce the amount of shoes that ended up in landfills. Nike first started by collecting athletic shoes at key retail locations and shortly thereafter teamed up with other recycling centers to establish shoe collections in communities across the country. More than 1.5 million pairs of post-consumer shoes are collected for recycling each year. Since the program began, they've collected more than 24 million pairs of used athletic shoes.

Nike Shoe Recycling – Sustainability | Reuse-A-Shoe – Nike Grind

"From running tracks and basketball and tennis courts to playgrounds and even synthetic turf fields, sports surfaces of all types can incorporate Nike Grind into their design.

Incorporating Nike Grind in these surfaces decreases the need for virgin rubber and other materials, and also offers an alternative to recycled products like tire rubber, which may not meet the consumer products safety guidelines that Nike Grind does. 

To create these surfaces, Nike partners with top-quality surfacing companies, providing them with Nike Grind materials and working together to develop innovative sports surfaces usually containing between 10 and 40 percent Nike Grind." –Nike

What Can You Recycle?

Help Nike keep their machines running smoothly. When recycling your shoes, please remember…

  • Athletic shoes (running shoes, sneakers, etc.) and LIVESTRONG wristbands only
  • You can recycle any brand of shoes
  • No shoes containing metal
  • No cleats or dress shoes
  • No wet or damp shoes
  • No sandals or flip-flops
  • No other types of armbands/bracelets

Then take them to the nearest drop off location.

Nike says: Nike Reuse-A-Shoe drop-off locations are found around the world, including all U.S. Nike stores, as well as community recycling centers and other locations. We are frequently expanding this program, so check back for new shoe recycling locations.

You can bring up to 10 pair of athletic shoes at a time to any of the drop-off locations. To find out how to host a shoe drive in your community or become more involved in their efforts, visit the Nike website for more information.

Make this a better world — one sneaker at a time!

This post is brought to you as part of my involvement in Project Genesis. On the first day of each month a group of bloggers share tips on how they impact our environment. Big ideas or small ideas; everyone working together can make a difference. To read the guidelines click here, to see who else shared this month click on the Project Genesis button below.

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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