I suppose my first confession resides right there in the title of this essay: I’m a beachcomber. No, I’m not one of those old guys you see at public beaches with a metal detector, a leathery tan, and high-waist trunks, searching for coins and lost jewelry. And even though I do my beachcombing most days during the warm months, I’m not obsessive about it. A bit superstitious perhaps, as you’ll see in a moment. But not obsessive.
Beach Walk Byproduct: Scanning the shoreline is really a secondary outcome of my daily walk, which happens to take place along a nearby beach, on the western—or “Sunset Coast”—of Lake Michigan. Beachcombing has been around a long time. Did you know that the first appearance of the word in print was made by Herman Melville in 1847? I think it began as a means of harvesting, or salvaging, the bounty of the tides, probably mostly for food or for profit.
But it’s not always just for profit. Beachcombing can be soothing. How can you beat an endeavor that requires walking along the shoreline? And satisfying. I recall when my sister and I we were kids, hitting the Great Lakes beaches with our Uncle Evertt, hunting for driftwood for his woodworking projects (I still have an intricate little wooden box he made for me in my office). There’s such satisfaction in coming upon the perfect find, softened and accentuated by water and sand, weather and time.
I suppose old habits die hard. From driftwood, to seashells, to Petoskey stones and fossils, to the perfect, flat skipping stone, on every beach I’ve strolled, I’m prone to scanning the tidal zone.
A Writer’s Beachcombing Superstitions: Okay, so the first confession wasn’t so bad. Now for the embarrassing writerly stuff. Please note that this has evolved over many years and—more importantly—it’s all in good fun (I’m not obsessive, dammit!). I have three primary objectives to my beachcombing, and they’ve come to represent three aspects of writing. On any given day, finding one has come to symbolize a sort of good luck charm for its represented aspect. Finding all three is the trifecta, of course.
The three prizes and their writerly symbolism are: [Read more…]