Sitting on the beach here in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I'm as far into "the south" as I've been, since I don't think Disney World and Miami count, and it's delightful.
Yesterday, in spite of the clouds of smoke from forest fires raging many miles away in Florida and Georgia, I walked along the beach in my work trousers, flip flops in hand, and collected tiny sea shells like I did when I was a kid back in South Jersey. I haven't been anywhere that feels quite this much like home in a long time, and if I weren't Ocean City-bound next weekend I'd be sad to go.
There's something about the Atlantic Ocean that just mezmerizes you and takes your mind off of whatever it was that worried you. Maybe its the vastness, the unknowable richness of the life beneath those waves of which we get to see mere trinkets - shells along the shoreline. I collected tiny pieces of the sea and stuffed them into my pocket until it could hold no more. The water seeped from their cracks to stain my bulging pocket, giving away my contraband as I tried to slink past the crowd at the poolside bar returning back to the hotel.
I have a box with shells I collected from the Indian Ocean, much in the same way, although without the pleated work trousers. Every time I look at them, I'm taken back to the shores of Kerala and the time I swam in the Arabian Sea after my friend's wedding in Delhi.
I rinsed the shells, one cupful at a time, in my sink to wash away the sand before storing them in a paper coffee cup with a lid inside my sneaker and packing it in my bag. I'm hoping some of them make it back to Brooklyn in tact, mementos of the time I stepped in the Atlantic in May and didn't think my toes would freeze off.