In Gift from the Sea, one of our former Victoria Classics Book Club selections, Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares insights gained during a sojourn to Florida’s Captiva Island. Whether their own seaside getaways have been savored in solitude or shared with loved ones, our readers share the treasures they have found at the water’s edge.
Living in a century-old beach cottage in New England, I often find myself combing the shore for such treasures as angel wing seashells, colorful sea grass, and driftwood. One day, after a northeaster had battered the rocky coastline, I found peeking out from a patch of seaweed the rose-imprinted head of a hand-forged nail. The rectangular shape of the long shaft dated it to the 1800s. Rusty and encrusted with barnacles and tiny pebbles, it had its own story to tell—an ancient relic from one of the old shipwrecks off the coast freed by the surge of the ocean. I marveled at the handiwork of the long-ago blacksmith who forged the nail, the shipbuilder who drove it into the planks, the brave sailors who piloted the vessel, and the tide that carried it toward the beach to become my favorite treasure from the sea.
Since I was a small child, I have found healing, refreshment, and adventure along the shores of my home state, Maine. The sounds of the waves rushing against the sandy beaches and seaweed-covered rocks seem to wash away all my worries and stress. Digging my toes into the sand makes me feel like a little girl again, even though I’m now in my sixties. I love to walk the beaches, scanning the tide lines for pretty shells and sea glass. I have often had to protect my picnic from the greedy, ever-present gulls. But that is part of the fun.
My parents brought my sister and me to many favorite seashore spots in Maine for family picnics, sightseeing, and swimming. Then, later on, I brought my own children to play in the waves, build sand castles, clamber on the rocks, and search the tide pools for snails and crabs. Last summer, I spent a day exploring Bailey Island by myself, basking in the myriad gorgeous views, walking along the sandy path to the Giant Stairs, and letting the sounds of the waves there and at Land’s End whisk away my sorrows and fill me with new hope. The seashore is a priceless gift and a tonic for the soul. It’s part of who I am.
I have been fortunate enough to have spent most of my summers exploring the beautiful and often turbulent beaches of Lake Michigan. With a summer cottage right on the water’s edge, the beach was our playground. As children, we roamed the shoreline from north to south with certain destinations in mind. Six miles to the south was the White Lake pier, and two miles to the north was Minert Park, where we bought pop and ice cream at the concession stand to enjoy on our walk back home. We scoured the beach for firewood in the evenings and gazed up at the night sky from our sleeping bags after the beach fire was reduced to embers.
Our treasures then were the places and friends we shared in that magical place. There was the summer my brother found a bottle with a note in it that had been waiting fourteen years to be discovered. He was a local celebrity for a while over that find.
As I grew older, I walked the beach in search of solitude and tranquility, always to be found in abundance there. The treasures became seagull feathers and unusual stones or pieces of driftwood sculpted into beautiful shapes from the constant wash of the water. The tiny waves that washed across my feet as I stood on the sandbars were like walking into a watery fairy garden. And who could resist a midnight swim on a warm summer night by the light of the moon?
Perhaps my favorite treasure to be found at Lake Michigan was when the late afternoon sun would sparkle like a million diamonds upon a bright blue blanket stretching to the horizon. My ultimate treasure has been a lifetime of memories of that wild yet peaceful place we call simply the Lake.
My childhood beach memories—folded and tucked away under winter’s blanket of snow—resurface each summer with remembrances of slow-cooked, brown-as-a-berry days on the Jersey Shore. Up early, beach bucket and shovel in hand, I spent my mornings digging for clams until my grandmother found me at lunchtime.
Now living in Massachusetts, I traded the Jersey Shore for Martha’s Vineyard with the purchase of a vacation home last year. Naturally, I wanted my family to experience the simple joys of clamming on the beach. My husband and I bought clam rakes and a floating wire basket from a bait-and-tackle shop on the island; obtained a family-clamming permit (a must on the Vineyard); and then, with all of our children and grandchildren, tested the waters at Lake Tashmoo, a coastal pond connected to the ocean.
Our family loved clamming as much as I had hoped; we easily filled our basket as we took turns using the clam racks. Life could not be much simpler or more enjoyable than spending precious time with loved ones, having fun while we caught our dinner. That evening, after soaking and cleaning the clams, I cooked them on the outside grill. They were absolutely delicious. Not one remained at the end of our meal. A walk on the beach, viewing the sun setting over Vineyard Sound, completed our perfect day. This gave me a new summer memory to savor on cold, snowy New England winter nights.