"Mom, look at this one!" over a mussel cracked only on one side.
"Look what I found!" over a still-round sand dollar whose fragile top had caved in.
Little hands picked up the delicate creations of Mother Nature and little voices exclaimed over their beauty. And the collections began.
One went into a pocket, others were nestled in a rolled up shirt. Some settled among friends in upside down hats or were turned over to Mom's larger hands.
It didn't matter that they weren't perfect. Few shells that make it to Oregon's beaches are. The battering from the rows and rows of breaking waves can do even the toughest shell damage. So they come up with a corner missing here or a top missing there or a crack down the middle.
Still, the children loved them. They were beautiful, even when broken.
It took me a while to see that beauty. I was a holdout for the perfect shell, even if it meant buying it from the local tourist shop for $1.50. After hours along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, I would have one tiny shell or none at all.
But this year something changed. This year I saw those broken shells differently. Even in pieces, the color, the design, the shape, the story became significant to me.
I picked up one, then another, then more. I turned them in my hands, felt their strength even after the pummeling, saw their intricacies and cherished their endurance.
I brought them home, placed them tenderly in my most shapely glass bowl and set them in a prominent place to remind me of something new:
Beauty can still be found in those broken but surviving.
Perfection is not a prerequisite for appreciation.
It is not necessary to be perfect to be loved.
*Copyright by Louise R. Shaw