Friday, April 10, 2015

Easter Butterflies

Last week Jimmy and I returned to Naples, Florida to spend Easter with my father.

Every day Jim and I trekked through the mangroves to visit the beach...



We were lucky that there was another Osprey pair this year with three fledglings in their nest.  I love to watch the Dad fish.  Last year, I wrote this post where the sea hawk caught a Florida pompano.  This year, he entertained again by catching this gar fish...



It didn't look like a very big meal...



But when you've got three hungry mouths to feed, you eat whatever you can catch...



The weather was calm and mild the entire time we were there which made for perfect beach-going.

There wasn't much of a wrack line this time...



Which was a huge blessing in disguise.

A full wrack line is like having too many choices on a buffet.  You tend to select the larger, more unusual dishes.   If there had been too much competition, I'm afraid we would have missed the treasures that actually were there.

Coquina shells. Donax Variabilis.
 

Small, edible saltwater clams that live below the sand in shallow water along East Coast beaches.

While I stooped to collect these tiny shells, an older German woman whom I had befriended that week approached with her cane.  She walked the beach every morning and we had struck up multiple conversations throughout the week about shells and birds and clams...basically, any and all wildlife that we saw in the mornings.



When she saw me down low, she said, "Oh, hello.  I see you've found something to collect."

"Coquina shells, " I said.  "Only little shells are here these days."

"Oh!" She exclaimed.  "They are so Be-YOU-tiful.  All those pretty colors.  I have a whole dish of them I keep out.  Just beautiful!  You have to be careful to clean them well though or they stink.  A little bit of the clam sticks to the shell and you have to get that out."

I waved to her as she went on her way, leaving this egret behind fishing in the surf.



I went back to collecting the tiny marvels and found they were most easily spotted in shallow water, as the lapping water lifted them up and they floated back down...



I wanted to find a way to share the pleasure of shell hunting, so I took a picture just for you.  Think of it as a virtual shell hunt.

There are eight coquina shells (3 doubles and 5 singles) in the picture below.  Can you find them all? (I'll reveal the answer in the bottom of the post.)


While I continued the delicate job of picking up wee bitsy clam shells, another woman approached and told me that she had grown up on Coquina Beach.  As children, she and her siblings had eaten the little clams as they played; their parents had made coquina broth from boiling the live mollusks in salted water.  I found a recipe here.  Who knew?

Jim and I weren't up to harvesting live clams, so we took our empty, bitty bivalves back home and followed the German woman's advice of washing the shells carefully...


Spending the time to pick out any remaining organic matter.  It was a tedious task as the shells ranged in size from 5mm to 18mm.

But it was exactly this slow, methodical care with each and every shell that caused me to fall in love...over and over again.

Together they were a kaleidoscope of Easter butterflies...



And individually, they were every shade of pastel with stripes and delightful combinations.



Like a box of antique buttons, each one held its own charm...



As I washed, dried and sorted my delicate swarm of shells, my father watched perplexed.  "What," he kept asking, "Are you going to do with all of those?"

"I don't know yet, Dad.  But aren't they amazing?"

"Hmmpff, " was all he said.

What I was going to do with them?  I didn't yet know.

But when Dad, Jim and I went to an Antique Mall the next day, look what I found...



This kitschy, old-fashioned souvenir bouquet of shell flowers.  It was love at first sight.

And look...


There are flowers made from all those tiny coquina shells.

And the hummingbird has a set of coquina wings...



Yesterday, I unpacked and sorted all the paired coquinas by color and placed them in a collection box...


A palette from the sea.

And I took all the single shells and placed them in a dish...just as my German friend had suggested.


And here they sit as I type this post to remind us that Summer is coming and the world is full of wonder and joy.

My new collection has led me down a path of researching shellwork which was all the rage in 18th century England.  I found this stunning example of shellwork from the reign of George III...


And then I remembered that my friend Mrs. Delany had created shellwork in addition to her 1,000 flower collages and amazing embroideries.  So I'm busy following that lead.

Looks like there's more shell embroideries in my future.  Found on the Beach might have to become a series.

Blowing kisses to you all and hoping that some unexpected delight washes up on your beach ;)

P.S.  Here's the solution to the virtual coquina search...



And here's a few other interesting shells that were also in the shot...


23 comments:

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a lovely collection of shells you have. It makes me want to go to the beach before it gets too hot out.

I have gobs of shells that I should do something artistic with. Hmmmm.

Happy Crafting and stitching ~ FlowerLady

Lilli said...

Absolutely beautiful pics! Thank you very much. Happy crafting! Spring greetings from Germany. Lilli

annamaria magda said...

I love shells very much, they are fantastic and amazing, they look like pearls, every shell is small masterpeace, I have only shells from Italy from Tyrrenian Sea, they are wonderful too, greetings from Warsaw

Rachel said...

The shells are wonderful colours, aren't they. Looking forward to seeing what they inspire..!

Point of order - we haven't had Charles III yet! /pedant.

deb* said...

beautiful photographs and so thought provoking! I immediately thought of the old Sailor's Valentines--talk about a 'shell-stopper'!

Marie said...

Oh I love shells! These photos were a real treat, thank for sharing.

Createology said...

Oh how I have enjoyed my virtual beach walk and shell finding time with you. These are beautiful and really do look like little butterflies. I love your collection box all sorted and ready for an adventure in stitching. Creative Coquina Bliss...

Allison Aller said...

What an absolute DELIGHT, Susan...thanks for such a lovely post!!!

Lisa Boni said...

I just adore the mix of color in the shells! What a pretty bowlful of color to remember your trip with!

Ati Sas-Ham said...

Thanks for this lovely post. It brought back lots of memories from my childhood when we found amazing shells at the beach of the Northsea in the Netherlands. With all the house changes they have dissapeared.... I think I have to drive to the beach and have a look for new ones :-)

Linda said...

Hi Susan,

I enjoy your posts so much. There is always joy in what you do and it translates to your written words!

Keep them coming. 8-)

Linda

Mary Ann said...

Seeing all those little shells reminded me of a visit to a museum. I can't recall if it was in Liverpool or Plymouth...somewhere in England for sure...LOL They had sailor's Valentines made of itty bitty shells. They were very old....mid 1800's?? They were really beautiful :)

Bekah said...

Beautiful shells!! I love what beauty there is in nature!!
Can't wait to see what you do with them - knowing your usual work, I'm sure it will be fabulous!

Maureen said...

Love this post!

Kelly aka STITCHNMOMMA said...

Truly beautiful! And the shell flower arrangement is stunning! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful pictures and experiences with us. :)

VĂ©ronique Coiffard said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful post. I love your box where you keep the shells classified by colour, All these shades are so delicate. Wonderful and inspiring ! Look forward to seeing your future interpretation !
Warm hello from France

Dane said...

Une merveille, on dirait des papillons !
Merci pour ces jolies photos
Bon dimanche

gracie said...

You always, always make my day with your wonderful posts. Thank you!

Suztats said...

Wow! So many beautiful shells in so many colours. Such patience to clean them all, and then sort them. I shall be interested in seeing what you do with them.
Fabulous photo of the egret!

Judy S. said...

Looks like you found the perfect beach, Susan! This year when we went to Florida, it was too chilly to do much beach walking, but even so, we've never found a place with as many shells as you found. It will be fun to see what you do with them.

Marsha said...

I Am looking forward to my beach visit in September. While on Cape Cod I visited an antique store and took pictures of shell pictures/valentines made by sea farers. Love that box with the colors seperated and the butterflies drying.

SharoninStitches said...

Thank you for this delightful post. Just beautiful.

Suzanne said...

I still just want to be YOU when I grow up. You are so amazing and inspirational...phenomenal woman! Thanks for all you do for all of us. I think I will blog about you on my own blog. XOXO,Suzanne
Hugs & Stitches

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