By Linda J. Friedrich
Growing up in New England, I have a deep appreciation for all things “ocean.” I was blessed with parents who packed us up in our station wagon and took us to the Connecticut shore and to Cape Cod for vacations and day trips. We loved the beach. My sister and brother and I thrived on climbing over jetties, scrambling for green crabs with homemade fishing lines and lures, and collecting the bounty of the sea from the beach.
We ran, we swam, and we played on the beach. We also picked up everything that we could find, investigated what it was, and often brought it home, much to my mother’s dismay. There were many summers where a bucket of shells would sit in water for a few weeks, until my mom threatened to throw it out because it smelled. Then we would reluctantly dump out the water to see what was in the bucket. We picked out what we wanted and gave our treasures a good cleaning.
Our beach treasures kept us busy, and we marveled at the cleverly built homes of sea creatures that we found, as well as pretty pieces of sea glass and other flotsam and jetsam. We wondered what these pieces of sea glass were originally, and how they arrived on our beach. We wondered how they got so smooth and where they came from. And we wondered what we could do with all of them, other than fill jars with pretty colors.
I have collected shells, rocks, and sea glass for many years, and I now have quite a collection. In fact, I find it almost impossible to pass by a pretty shell, a sparkly rock, or a piece of glistening sea glass without picking it up and putting it in my pocket. For me, there’s no better way to relax than to walk on a beach and to create something festive or useful from my sea treasures.
Designing gifts from shells has been a hobby for me for quite some time, with a focus on things like Christmas trees, wreaths, crosses, jewelry boxes and mirrors. A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to work with sea glass and joined an online sea glass group. I was soon enjoying photos of other members’ sea glass creations and wishing that I could do the same. But, I no longer had any sea glass, and lamented to the group that I wished I had some to work with. Soon after posting that message, I received a message from another member, telling me that she was currently collecting sea glass on her vacations and would be glad to send some to me for crafting.
I began talking online with my new friend who promised the sea glass. Susanna lives in Germany, and I live in the USA. We talked about our travels and our love of the beach. She vacations in the South of France, where she collects her sea glass. I live in Western Massachusetts and vacation on Sanibel Island, Florida, and Cape Cod every year. We both envied each other’s vacations but found a way to share them with each other. After talking for several months, she told me that she finally had enough sea glass to send to me and to look for a package soon. This was exciting, I thought, and I waited anxiously for the box to arrive.
I was thrilled when a box arrived and saw that my friend had sent me not one, but two bags filled with white and green sea glass. There was so much – it must have taken her forever to find it all! She also sent a small Christmas tree that she crafted for me from all green sea glass. It was beautiful, and I was truly touched by her generosity. It takes a long time to find sea glass, and I was stunned by this gift. She was a very special person! Now I had to learn how to work with it, to make her proud! My first sea glass tree took five hours to make — I decided that I wanted it to look like there was snow on the tree, so I mixed green and white pieces of sea glass together. It was hard work to angle the sea glass on the tree, but, I loved the result. Then, I decided to make another one where the glass juts out from the cone, the way that branches on fir trees do — I liked this one even better! I was hooked.
Throughout all of this craft work, Susanna and I continued to talk online and to learn more about each other. We’ve learned that in addition to the beach, we both love plants, animals, and photography. I wanted to thank her for her huge kindness, so I made a wreath for her from many different types of shells collected while vacationing on Sanibel Island, as well as a tree made of Sanibel Calico Scallops. It’s a long way to Germany from Massachusetts, but miraculously, both items arrived intact and are now on display in her house. I’m happy to say that she loves them!
Our common love of sea treasures and our desire to be kind to others has given us the true gift of friendship. It's wonderful to have a friend in Germany who enjoys many of the same things that I do! And, I love that we can share our “oceany” finds and our lives, all because of a common love of the sea and its gifts.
We both hope that one day we can meet on a warm beach on Sanibel or in the South of France. We’ll each have a bag of shells and sea glass in our hands plus smiles on our faces. Mutual love of the beach transcends distance and diversity. It brings people together.
That is a heartwarming story. I love what you have done with those beautiful shells! I hope one day you and your friend get that chance to meet!