This is what I was brought up doing…
My whole life, living in Florida, every time my mom took us to the beach we searched for sharks’ teeth. I can’t remember the first time I found one–I was probably eight–but I remember taking my granny to the beach when I was pregnant with my first daughter in 1991 and finding the tiniest tooth in my collection.
It was smaller than this capital I and looked like a fleck of seashell. I was lying, face-down, on one of those tri-folding lounge chairs peeking through the plastic weave at the sand a foot below me. Granny was walking with my Aunt Gale and her three year old grandson at the water’s edge in Fernandina Beach.
I’d flick the black specks that weren’t shaped like tiny triangles and pick up the ones that looked like they had a root to examine more closely. I’d gathered quite a few while they were splashing in the water, including the teeny, tiny one. I remember Granny telling me she didn’t know how I found something so small mixed in all those shells, but my eyesight was good back then.
I’ve found hundreds of teeth since then and collected them in a jar that sat on my dresser in my childhood home, took up space on my coffee table in my apartment at FSU, and on the middle ledge of a bookshelf in the first home I bought with my husband. But sometime during our move to and from Kentucky in 2007 I lost that jar and have been slowly building my collection back up.
But I don’t gather just sharks’ teeth now; I’ve evolved to include sea glass, strange, beautiful rocks, and other unusual objects, like rusty pier nails or marine fossils. And I have different jars for each.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to the beach just to walk and relax, but the urge to hunt was strong. It always is. And though I was searching for sea glass, my eyes kept homing in on those minute black triangles. Maybe I spot them easier because they are flecks of black on an otherwise beige field of sand.
Why is this simple act important enough for me to journal? I think it is a reminder to myself that no matter how annoyed I get with Florida’s god-awful heat, or politics, or rude people, this is my home. I am a Florida girl, a raised native of Jacksonville. And though I sometimes dream of living in a more rural area I think I’d miss the beach with its peaceful crash of waves, crunch of shells under my feet, call of gulls on the wind. And the hunt.