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First Thing You See

This month, my full moon day-time revel was fueled by zucchini parmesan, too much coffee, and lack of sleep from waxing bedroom wall shine these past few nights. I was tired-wired. The one thing I could think to soothe the jitters while still burning off some energy was to stuff a work file into my satchel and take to the shore. There, I could sit in the sand and edit poems for a client and take breaks with long walks, and maybe even nap in this oddball autumn heat. I’d also slipped into my bag, a favorite book, How to Be An Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by word and image artist, Keri Smith. The book jacket explains it this way…


At any given moment, no matter where you are, there are hundreds of things around you that are interesting and worth documenting.






When I got settled in my beach chair, I opened to page 35, Exploration #5, “The First Thing You See.” This is what is says…





I’d arrived at the beach at low tide, the flat expanse of sand washed clean. And there, halfway down the beach, I saw an object that made me think of the moon, sunlit, bleached, and bright and cratered, wide and open, full just like the unseen moon near midday in the northeastern hemisphere. It was a large clam shell, halves parted, still hinged at the center.

I washed it clean and played with it, lifting it up, and twisting it this and that way in the sunshine. I took pictures of this treasure at different angles. I decided it had presented itself to me to symbolize a vessel or a purse or a pocket, yes, a pocket, and a choice to leave it empty or to fill it. So, I went to the end of the beach to the rocks where there are tidepools. There were more empty shells, smaller shells, abandoned, once the homes of whelks, ancient whelks from the pocked and crusty looks of them. I found broken glass, and bits of sodden sponge, and a twist of rope from a lobster trap, but I decided I would leave my shell pocket empty, and that felt right.

I have a busy month ahead with teaching and coaching and editing for clients, while also wrangling a third draft of my 400-page beast of a novel into fewer pages. I am also working on a book for writers, and I am trying to not not-paint. It will be important that between this full moon and the next, I find many pockets of empty, and find them often. I will set my empty pocket of a shell on my windowsill to remind me.


This first thing I saw today as “an explorer of the world,” was the very thing I needed.


(Photo: Jodi Paloni)


Creativity Prompt (30-60 minutes)


~ Take yourself for a walk and allow yourself to come upon something special, “the first thing you see.” I think of this, not literally, like a step or your car or the apple tree, but as the first thing you see that makes you say, ooohhh…and/or ahhh…


~ Pick it up, or observe it where it is, and let your mind imagine what message it has in store for you.


~ Write about it as I did above or in any way you want to write about it, perhaps as a poem, or use it as a lead into a memory or a story.


~ Write a letter to a friend telling them about it. Mail the letter to the friend with the object, if that’s possible, and ask them to pass it on, the gift that keeps on giving


Happy treasure hunting!