The shell in my pocket
We've been home for a few hours now. The waves on the coast and the salty sea air already seem so far away. The friends we ate with, swam with, walked and talked with, prayed and played with...are now scattered across hundreds of miles from the U.S. to Canada. But I have a shell in my pocket.
We woke up before 6:00 yesterday morning to give Gord and Annie a proper send-off. After saying our good-byes (and forming another "hug line"), I stepped out on the deck and noticed an amazing pink sky reflecting in the ocean water. The sun was rising, and it was gorgeous. I walked out to the beach to get a better view and snap some photos.
With the sand in my toes, I wanted nothing more than to just take a nice long walk and soak in the sunrise. After a quick text exchange, Brian and Jill came down to join me. (Tom would have come too, but he was out for an early morning bike ride.) We walked down to the pier and back, taking in the sounds and smells and feels one last time. I picked up a little white shell and slipped it into my pocket.
Back at the beach house, we finished packing and cleaning. We bid farewell to Brian & Jill, and then Carl & Wendy before leaving at 9:30 a.m. Our drive was uneventful until we hit a huge traffic standstill in Virginia on I-77. We slowly inched up to an exit and decided to get off and try our luck at skirting around the backup. We didn't really save any time, but driving through the curves and hills of the Virginia countryside was a much more interesting way to spend an hour than sitting in the traffic jam. The scenery was beautiful. But any sign of the ocean was long gone...except for the shell in my pocket.
Needing a bathroom break while on our detour, we stopped at Trent's grocery...the only store we had come across in over 30 minutes. It was a combination gas station, grocery store, bait & tackle shop, and hardware store. With several mounted animals on the shelves and walls, it had to be one of the most unusual stores I've been to in a very long time. After snapping a photo, I slipped my phone in my pocket and felt the shell...and again was reminded of the lovely beach walk that morning.
We eventually made our way back to the Interstate, and into West Virginia. At Brian and Jill's recommendation we stopped for supper and a quick look around "Tamarack," an arts and crafts showcase in Beckley, West Virginia. We checked into our hotel in Chillicothe, Ohio, at 11:00 p.m. When I pulled my room key out of my pocket, my little white shell fell to the floor. I picked it up off the ground for the second time that day...this time off the hotel carpet. I remembered the sand.
Another five hours on the road today brought us home. I carried my shell in my pocket all day. Every time I touched it, I remembered. The ocean. The waves. The salty sea air. The sunshine. The friends. The good times.
It's just a simple little shell...a little cracked and imperfect...but it holds so much more than meets the eye.
As I finish this final post of our North Carolina Coast trip, I realize that this is why I write. My words are the shell in my pocket. Every time I pull them out I return to that place where I found them. I reach for them at random times, and they bring a smile to my face. Sometimes when I forget they're there, I find them again, and am so glad I kept them around. They may not be grand or flawless, or even that meaningful to anyone else, but their worth is in the remembering.
Tomorrow, life gets back to normal. But you can bet I'll carry the shell in my pocket.