I took a walk on the beach the other day, and I came across a perfect set of shells. It sat in the sand split nearly into halves but not yet. When I picked it up, and held it to my ears, I heard the sounds of the ocean.
I wondered if it had heard me approaching, my limping, achy, yet persistent struts, or my son's skips and hops, his high pitched squeals of excitements. Someone had cleaned out the animal inside, leaving the interior perfectly shiny and smooth. Perhaps a combination of the waves, sand, and whatever predator had taken it as food or a grain to form a new part of the ocean. In any case, all that was left in the sand on that morning was the pretty housing without a trace of the spirit inside.
Or perhaps it lingered somewhere. As a slight shift in the wind, as the grains of sand that rolled before surrendering to ocean's tug and pull, leaving tracks of its retreat behind, if only for a moment. Or perhaps, as the story I heard as I walked on with it stuffed into my pocket.
Let's call him Sam, as the voice was of an older male, he told the tale slowly, deliberately, with an ounce of sadness, but mostly it contained carefully concealed excitement.
The story began at the bottom, of ocean that is. It was dark, damp and always moving, just the way clams likes it. Sam had lived there for only a few month, but he had settled in nicely with his new neighbors: Carl the crab, and Sally the starfish. Sometimes Carl's insistent clicking and clacking as he crawled about the rocks and debris gave Sam a migraine but he didn't mention it to anyone. He secretly admired Sally's fancy outfits, but he simply smiled and nodded whenever their path crossed.
In the rock pile not too far from them, lived the sea anemones and their busy body house guest, the clown fish. They can create so much noises and stories, Sam stayed clear of the hubbub of activities they called their center. There lived many other types of residence in that corner of the ocean floor, but Sam didn't like to butt his nose into other creature's business and kept to himself most of the time.
One thing he did cherish was the times when Tom the sea turtle would cruise by, without a care in the world, smiling and waving as he went. Sam could feel his pulse slow down (almost to stillness) as Tom's elegant motion spread through the waves, and his worries fade away as softly as the last ray of sun that glided across the glassy surface above them hours earlier.
Time didn't mean a lot when life repeats in a circular pattern. Sam lost tracks of the number of days and nights since Dorothy and her dolphin family came around last. So one morning when he woke to their impossibly joyous cries and sound of their flippers splashing in the waves, he shook off his plankton filled dreams to check out the actions nearer to the surface.
He had to catch a ride so he asked Tom.
"Why old Sam, you want to ride to the surface and watch the dolphins?"
It wasn't like Tom to be surprised at anything, let alone asking about it. But then again, it isn't everyday when the shy clam volunteered to ride to the surface either. Sam preferred darkness, quietness, and stealthy feasting to bright lights and showy entertainments. Everyone knew that and for the most part, they've tried to accommodate him most of their lives.
However, something gnawed at Sam that day, he explained. It was the closest he'd ever been bitten by a travel bug, other than the times he got carried away helplessly by the changing currents, of course. Tom shook his head in amazement, but being a kind and gracious turtle, he agreed to take Sam up without further delay.