A kind of beauty

A few of the imperfectly beautiful shells I gathered in January 2013, Captiva Island Florida

A few of the imperfectly beautiful shells I gathered in January 2013, Captiva Island Florida

“There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.”Conrad Hall

During our brief getaway to Captiva Island in January, I spent blissful hours walking along the shore searching for seashells.  Sanibel and Captiva are duly famous as a shell-gatherer’s dream.  I had never seen so many shells washed ashore anywhere.  Initially, I was searching primarily for the elusive perfect seashells, the kind you pay for in stores.  Scavenging for these was a fun challenge, and I found them just often enough to keep me searching.

After awhile, though, I began to notice that the imperfect shells were beautiful, too, and far more unique.  Each had its own details and characteristics.  The rough pounding of the waves had laid them open, exposing the amazing inner structures that are concealed by the perfect surfaces of the undamaged shells.  In many shells, the sand and sea had smoothed the damaged edges, creating a polished appearance that could have been an intentional work of art.

Months earlier, my friend Kathy had written to me about a trip to Sanibel, and how she had learned to see imperfection in a different way as she gathered shells.  I now know exactly what she meant.

Our imperfections, as much as our virtues and strengths, make us who we are.  Perhaps this is the lesson inherent in the beautiful verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9, where God tells Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  This does not mean that we should not work to improve our lives or ourselves.  But even our less appealing traits can be smoothed and polished into a uniquely beautiful character.

We may be uncomfortable with our flaws, particularly those related to physical appearance, because we live in a world that projects mostly idealized images through advertisements and carefully edited media presentations.  But each of us has something to offer the world that can come only from us, and our individual gifts are shaped by our struggles and imperfections.  May we all value ourselves enough to see our own inadequacies as opportunities to grow, not barriers to hold us back.

 

17 Comments

  1. They are beautiful! I remember collecting cowrie shells when I was tiny and I always thought the holey ones were the best, because they made the best necklaces. 🙂

    • Yes, I have quite a few I saved to use in making necklaces! Thanks for visiting here and commenting.

  2. Sheila

    Julia, simply stated from me, this is a most beautiful post. Thank you once again! Wishes for a wonderful, restful weekend. Sheila

    • Thank you, Sheila! Hope you and Bill have a great weekend too. I appreciate your visits!

  3. kjyaccino

    Amen! Thank you, Julia.

    • You said it first! 🙂

  4. Wonder how I always have similar stories to say. 🙂 While at school once we collected a lot of such shells during one of our trips. The beaches of our state do not have so many varieties of shells. I marveled at each piece thinking of the place it came from, the creature it housed and the pretty designs and shapes they came in. Yes, the imperfect ones attracted me more than the flawless ones the shops offered.

    • Thank you Bindu! Perhaps you have similar stories because we are kindred spirits :-). Seashells never cease to delight me, and I could happily spend long hours strolling down the seashore, scarcely lifting my head except to admire the gulls flying over. I have found that most beaches do not offer many shells, but there are particular places on earth where they apparently abound. I’m so happy to have been able to visit one such place, and I hope to visit others! Thanks for being here!

  5. I like to pick up a shell or two when ever we holiday too. I have a dish in my washroom. It’s so tedious to make perfection your goal, you miss so much along the way. I found in Europe, people are so less concerned about material things and really enjoy life. Music, food, nature. It seems to me that North Americans are more materialistic. Not everyone for sure but on a whole, people will bankrupt themselves to have ‘stuff’. The perfect house, car, kids. It’s such a transparent facade. I see people leaving Costco with ‘trolleys of stuff’ and wonder if that makes them more happy than a nice evening with friends at a coffee shop listening to great music. I’d much sooner find my own imperfect shells on the beach than ‘buy’ one perfect shell to take home. BRAVO Julia, to being REAL.

    • Thanks so much! I agree with you that life can be much happier when we live simply. I think North Americans are blessed with lots of space and when we have big, roomy homes, they naturally seem to fill up with our possessions. I appreciate what you said about perfection being tedious because the things you make are so exquisitely perfect! I think one reason I don’t do crafts more is that I can’t get past the mistakes. But it does take practice and repetition to get good at anything; maybe that’s how you became so talented with your handmade treasures! Thanks for being here!

      • LOL, the things I make are far from perfect, you just have to know where to look. But thanks for that though 😀 It’s mostly about having the right tools really. Like a carpenter.

        • Well, I have some great tools so if I can just resign myself to practice before expecting perfection, I’ll be set! I have a pretty sharp eye for imperfections but I haven’t seen any in your work. What most impresses me is the way you combine various elements together for just the right look.

          • You’re a doll to say, I would guess that it’s more a case of us liking similar things. It’s funny how things come together, very organic but in the end it works. 😀

            • Thanks for the insight! I’ll tell myself that next time I’m staring blankly at something I’m trying to create, wondering what comes next. I think I just need to give myself permission to experiment and not feel as if everything I do has to be ready for prime time! That’s been one great thing about blogging; as I read one recent columnist say, it teaches you how to hit the “publish” button and keep putting the work out there where someone can see it. Valuable experience for those of us who tend to freeze up.

  6. Julia a very beautiful post. I visited Sanibel Island after my hip surgeries… was enchanted with the seashells there… yes imperfection is beautiful!

    • Thanks Robyn, I’m so happy you visited here! I’m happy you like the post. I hope to go back to Sanibel and Captiva again; it was magical.

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