Signs in the Shells

Audio (Click here.)



My head is bowed, my concentration in and out of intenseness
on this leisure seashell hunt,
looking along the shore for treasures no longer sunk.

Nothing occupies my mind, for once, except for the task at hand,
approaching each disruption to the smoothness of the tide-wiped sand,

natural remnants scattered seemingly haphazardly here and there
by a surf that reliably ebbs and flows in musical time
but carries random particles latched onto waves for the ride.
There is no rhyme,

only reason, for what gets washed ashore.
For me, it is always personal, always Fate, Serendipity, Destiny, or more,

ultimately God bringing the specific treasure to my feet alone,
meant only for my sandy fingers to pick up and hold,

treasures containing clues only I can decipher,
special purposes that will be revealed to me when the timing is right,

magic released only when certain words are spoken by my lips,
my breath the specific required ingredient.

This treasure hunt, though performed by countless others now,
before, and in every tomorrow,

though such a popular tradition, is only selfishly for and about me.
I wonder if it is to each.

Because I am one to champion on land the weeds,
the dandelions, the wildflowers blooming
from unplanted wind-blown seeds,
here at the beach,

I find extra-special meaning in the broken, partial shells
and do not immediately dismiss them in a search of something else,
whole, by others’ standards, perfect.

The morning sun, still rising, just above the horizon,
reaches directly for a broken shell up ahead,
the beam lighting up the water in a path
filled with celestial tenderness

much like the first rays of dawn seem to so personally
through the leaves on land reach through to specifically speak to me.

The way the warm, orange light fills the broken part of the shell
makes it more beautifully full,
more substantially whole, than any possible other.
It speaks to me of a heart healed and renewed and regrown by love.


Being early, and low tide, it is prime time for shell collecting;
I am the first to lay eyes on some of these, have first pickings.

I happen upon the jackpot, though it is not as much fun as a depletion,
for now it is just a matter of selecting
from the lot, but the abundance and the way they sparkle
in the early light fills me with awe,
its spectacularness undeniable.

So I revel in the beauty of the unexpected encounter,
my senses quite flooded with the wonder.

I get down low to photograph them from their perspective,
clustered along the sea-land border as if in silent reverence
themselves in the God-blessed new day
as the Great Ball of Orange Fire ever so slowly ignites with a glow
the water and morning in a grandiose display,


rising above the aquahorizon in a ritual so sacred,
not just another sunrise but the one that bestows upon us this new day gifted
that we take for granted too easily, too often.
For it and this moment, I pay homage.

I give thanks to God, my Father.

Head still bowed, upon the treasures, I return my gaze
and pick through for the ones that happen to spark in me something

I just can’t quite place…


Poem and images ©LauraDenise

Poet’s note: So this was supposed to be a reflective essay… I tried really hard! But I couldn’t stop thinking and writing like a poet! My prose is doomed! I can’t get the poetry out of it! 

7 thoughts on “Signs in the Shells

  1. Soooo many reasons why I adore this! Your images here especially this last one…perfection! They lend so beautifully to the reflection of the walk to sunrise. You wow me! I can honestly say, I can’t get enough. So glad we connected! 🤗🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful expression in so many ways. You mention that though there is a musical rhythm in the tidal movement of the waves, there is no rhyme in what the waves leave for you on the shore. There is no rhyme, but there is reason, which is God’s reason. His reason often seems chaotic happenstance or even unreasonable from our perspective, but our souls intuit that His mind is reason nevertheless. This is an example of soul intuition transcending the limits of our conscious minds. Poetry is a lyrical expression of this soul intuition, which for our conscious minds anyway comes across as “magic,” as you aptly said. Your essay is beautifully interconnecting reason, intuition, coincidence, and magic, all at play in finding that one seashell that especially calls out to us. It is no wonder that you prose will veer into poetry, for the deeper subject being elaborated here is really only captured in poetic utterance. In the end, since we see through a glass darkly, as St. Paul said, God’s Word comes across to us as either fantasy or folly. In either case, it is beautiful, subtle, and sparkling in the sun.


    1. I’m glad you liked this one, too, Michael! It was different for me in its formation, trying to make it one thing but my muses wanting to take ownership. (I swear, they just use me for my fingers sometimes.) I was later thinking the same thing as you, that it is my deeper subjects that turn poetic, like I can’t express it any other way. I’m working on a reflective beach-themed collection for a book, so I’ve been trying to keep that my focus lately. I really wanted to write more essays like “My Mother is the Beach,” but I wrote that years ago, and having poetry flow out of me every day now for over two years has rewired me, it seems.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is okay to be rewired. With prolonged creative or philosophical writing, the mind will assume the “wiring” that best fits with what the soul desires. I have learned not to fight it, even when I think consciously that the form or even the substance of the piece really should be different than it is turning out to be. As an analogous example, I also write novels, and not one of my novels has ever finished in the way that I had anticipated when starting the work. The story takes on a life of its own, and there is invariably a strange (though not unsettling) point midway through the novel writing process where I find myself transcribing the story as I see it happening in my mind more than actually devising that story. The story characters and their adventures become a real universe unto themselves. For all I know I may have inspired the creation of an actual parallel universe with those characters inhabiting it in virtue of the act of writing. Anyway, the story in time becomes a living thing, and we writers may start off as story creators but end up as soul transcribers.

        Liked by 1 person

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