ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

Finding Peace Inside of Chaos (I can’t do it without help)

So I have this obsession, um, tradition. When we visit places I fall in love with I gather pieces of it to bring home, mostly shells and rocks but sometimes other small things; I’ve spent countless hours combing beaches, head bent, until something catches my eye. I keep these collections separate from one another so when I see a bowl of shells and stones in our house I know where they came from and I can pick them up, feel their curves in my hand, be transported back to a beach or a patch of land that I love. When we move I wrap these collections in paper, place them gently in a container, and label it so I’m sure to not mistake one for another, it’s one of the few things I’m organized about. And I collect Buddhas, doesn’t matter if it’s a Chinese Buddha or a Thai Buddha, having them around makes me happy.

I never saw how these two collections were linked until our most recent move. I was wandering around our new house, surrounded by half empty boxes and chaos, feeling a bit overwhelmed, desperately missing our lab who had just passed away that morning. My eyes settled on one of my Buddhas and I smiled to myself, the same way I’d smiled earlier when I’d picked up a shell to admire. I realized both of my collections help me to remember joyful times and to feel peace, things that can be elusive when you’re in the middle of a storm. My stones and shells remind me of places I love, people I love, times when I was so happy that I decided to pick up that moment and carry it with me wherever I went; my Buddhas remind me to slow down enough to take in the things that bring me joy.

I have a favorite beach, Pollan Bay in Donegal, Ireland, which I blogged about here. From the moment I first went there I felt like I belonged on that spot of land, I don’t know why and I’ve stopped trying to figure it out, I just feel blessed to have a place where I feel centered, where life is always in the moment.

Pollan Bay

Pollan Bay

I can’t even begin to guess how many shells and rocks I have from that beach but it’s hundreds upon hundreds and even if I didn’t label the shells I would know where they came from, I’ve never seen shells like them anywhere in Ireland, not even on the bay directly across from Pollan. They look like tiny conch shells only, for the most part, they’re smooth instead of pointy. This is the bowl of them, along with rocks from Pollan, I have on our dining room table

I have others throughout the house

That bit of green on top of the shells in the last photo is a piece of soap from Vista del Valle Plantation Inn, which I’ve blogged about here and here. I put a piece of it in a plastic bag the last time Eric and I went there because they always had the same handmade soap in the rooms, the smell of it takes me there.

I have a bowl of stones that I gathered on a beach just outside of Belmullet, Ireland, where my great-grandparents were from

Honduras 1 030

a jar of shells from the graves of my great-great grandparents, also from just outside Belmullet

Honduras 1 037

a jar from Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

a jar with shells from Playas Tamarindo and Langosta, Costa Rica

Then there’s this table, which holds a a bowl of acorns we gathered in Dublin, and hodge podge of shells from Guinea, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Maryland,

including this little bowl, which has shells from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica and sea glass from Maine. I mixed them because the sea glass was given to me by one of my best friends and the shells are from the trip we took with her and her family, who we love and miss very much.

There is also a tiny jar of sand from Pollan Bay

Then there are the Buddhas, some of which were gifts and some I bought in various places we’ve lived.

And two little Ganesha

Life can be so chaotic and busy, and the past few months for us have been those things on steroids, as well as filled with grief and loss. But when I look at my collections I am reminded to slow down and notice the details, to admire the things that often get overlooked, to spend time just being. And I remember that while life is hectic now in the future, knock wood, I’ll have time to gather shells and peruse for Buddhas. Until then I can just appreciate the ones I have and cherish the memories they represent.


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