Poetry by the Sea

I signed up for poetry and left the coast of Florida with more than poems in my pocket.   Invited to attend Poetry by the Sea, a retreat for poets taught by Georgia Heard and Rebecca Dotlich, I knew it was a chance of a lifetime.   Georgia has been my poetry teacher for three decades and I’ve followed Rebecca’s work in recent years.  That said, I haven’t written much poetry lately, so I wasn’t sure how relevant it would be for my current interests.  I didn’t know specifically why I wanted to go, yet trusted the answer would be revealed.  It came to me through a shell and a poem.

The retreat was in Jupiter, Florida, a few miles north of West Palm Beach.  We were right on the beach, so I seized every free moment to walk and explore.  It was a place of stunning sunrises, worn-smooth shells, and warm, humid air.  The beach is a nesting ground for loggerhead turtles and was covered with eggshells, some cracked open and others still intact.  At first it was disturbing to see so many until I read that “sea turtles deposit an average of about 100 eggs in each nest and lay between 3 and 7 nests during the nesting season… The unhatched nests, eggs and trapped hatchlings are good sources of nutrients for the dune vegetation, even the left over egg shells from hatched eggs provide some nutrients.” (http://www.conserveturtles.org/seaturtleinformation.php?page=seaturtle-faq)

In addition to the turtle egg shells, there was a disturbing amount of plastic all along the shoreline.  The truth of articles about the crisis level of ocean plastic pollution hit home. (http://fortune.com/2015/10/01/ocean-plastic-pollution/) There were small plastic bits, lost toys and flip flops, and even a plastic water bottle packed full of styrofoam.  It was encouraging to see people collecting plastic from the beach, but sad they had to collect plastic instead of lovely shells.

The super moon event created quite a backdrop for the retreat.  The connection between the moon and tides felt especially strong.  However, it was a small shell, a moon snail, that ended up being the most significant part of the whole experience. Recently I’ve been thinking about my life stage and how it feels sometimes like everything is getting smaller.  When I found the little moon snail (http://barnegatshellfish.org/images/snails/atlantic_moon_snail_01wl.PNG), I realized that its spiral actually began tiny and grew more expansive in time.  It was a perfect metaphor for life, which I ended up using for one of my poems:

Moon Snail

You are a spiral, soft eggshell
brown with a tint of rose.

Wave-dropped at my feet,
I hold you in my hand as
you teach me about life.

I think of my own, spinning
faster than I can believe
to its outer edges.

Until I found you, I thought
the spiral closed in, diminished.
I can see now it’s quite the
opposite, that what’s left
is the expansive part.

Widening into open space,
I notice near your final curve
a well-placed opening–
a portal, perhaps,
to somewhere else.

It was a blessing to go to such a beautiful “somewhere else,” which in the end brought me home to myself.

3 thoughts on “Poetry by the Sea

  1. Hi Mary,
    I loved reading your poem and seeing you in my mind’s eye sharing it last Tuesday. This is a beautiful piece of writing. I think we all left with more than poetry in our notebooks and sand between our toes. It was so great to see you again.
    ABig Hug,

  2. Your voice has a beautiful sound letting the enlightening words of your poem that you read at practice resonate in my head. My thoughts about so many things are anew for they found “a portal” thanks to you!
    Have a Happy Day!

  3. Hi Mary,
    What a beautiful post! Your poem is a portal to a wonderful “somewhere else” that leads us back home. It was so special for me to have you at the retreat last week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.