The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach–waiting for a gift from the sea.
–Anne Morrow Lindbergh–
I had only about an hour to walk the beach, listen to the surf and the gulls, and survey the far horizon. I was at Virginia Beach for my annual environmental educator conference, and the hotel was quite a long trek away. But when the sun came out and warmed the November sky, I knew I had to skip some sessions and go spend some time with the sea.
I wasn’t searching for treasures. I truly was open, choiceless as a beach, but I didn’t have to wait long for the sea to present a gift. It was a mermaid’s purse, the common name for an egg case of a skate, which is a fish that resembles a ray. Depending on the kind of skate, the embryo lives in that mermaid’s purse for at least half a year, but as long as two-and-a-half years! And when a predator, such as a sea urchin, comes around, the embryo has the ability to sense the predator and then play dead. And by play dead, I mean not simply stop moving around inside its mermaid’s purse, but even to temporarily stop its heart.
The mermaid’s purse reminded me of the fragility of nature and its adaptability. It was a beautiful little gift from the sea on a bright November day.