Baja Bottles and Shells, Magical Things From the Beach in La Paz!

2012 August 5

Antique bottles nestled in one of Mary's Shell Wreaths

Beach, just seeing or hearing the word takes me away to a place of salt, sand, sun and peace.
I grew up in New Jersey, and Fort Hancock on the end of the sand spit called Sandy Hook was where I spent many a summer day.
The only day I did not go to the beach in August 1970 was the day my darling daughter Melissa was born. That was August 17th.
When we were kids growing up in Atlantic Highlands New Jersey, we lived a few blocks from the Sandy Hook Bay beach. My mother did not drive. So she gave us each an inner tube to carry, lined my brother, Merrell’s wagon with an army blanket, plopped La Princessa Patti ( my younger sister) in the middle and surrounded her with our lunch, our towels, change of clothes and beach toys.

Off we trekked to spend the day at the beach. And we loved it. Every second of it. And of course we collected shells and lots of other flotsam that washed ashore. My mother, as mothers do, had to limit what we could carry home, so we were told to only collect perfect shells. Otherwise we would have carried home every fragment, shard and sliver of shell.

Just an artsy shot of some candle ring shell wreaths on my patio

Now I live on the beach in La Paz, Baja California Sur. I collect shells of every size and color. For years I was addicted to collecting what we call jingle shells, gorgeous fragile, oddly shaped shells that range in color from pearly white to yellow, golden yellow and vibrant orange.
I love the gorgeous spiral curves of the inside of shells that I will dub “snails” anything that had a creature inside that spun their gorgeous homes.
These gorgeous yellow and white striped shells came from El Mogote, the sandbar that forms the La Paz harbor. We were wading and started to see these gorgeous shells lying on the bottom. We fulled bag after bag with them, and had to float the bags as we walked back to our chairs.

Some days, I have to do a shell intervention with Mary. When she starts hodling her back, I know it is time to stop. She always says " Just one more...please."

My friend Mary and I spend hours in the winter collecting shells, and we are always surprised what we find. And certain days big shells attract us and that is all we will pick up, others it is small to tiny shells. And always oddly-shaped shells. Mary makes the gorgeous shell wreaths pictured in this blog.
I take credit for inspiring her.
We would collect the shells and take them home to pile around the house, or stored them in jars and otherwise drop them and forget about them. There was no mother to tell us to only pick the perfect ones, or to only take home five.

Then I decided to see how many household objects would look better adorned with shells. Out came the glue gun, and nothing was safe! I glued shells on mirrors, picture frames, I wrapped a yogurt container with fabric then glued shells on it. It was to hold a roll of toilet paper in my outside bathroom.

Soon Mary and I were having shell contests.
But she has created the most amazing objects, including seashore Santas, modeled after the Victorian Santas that are so popular. But hers were standing on a base of sand, garbed in pieces of Mexican cloth, and some palm bark. Slung over his shoulder was a bag of shells.

Mary’s work has evolved into gorgeous wreaths. I am proud to say my small wreaths pictured here are the prototypes of Mary’s ongoing work. She gave them to me for my birthday a few years ago.

These wreaths are wonderful candle rings. They become part of my seasonal dlsplays and centerpieces for dinner parties, and are always where I can see them.

Now when I need a gift, I call Mary.
Her wreaths grace the homes of friends and family all over the US. They are in Denver and Dallas. One large wreath made just for her, was the centerpiece at my sister’s wedding in Amagansett. And there is the all black one. Mary dyed all the shells and turned her fingers black, they stayed that way for weeks. From Minnesota, to Idaho, South Dakota, California and New Jersey, someone I know and love has one of these wreaths. And a few years ago, one of Mary’s shell wreaths went to Paris with Madam Francine Cousteau.
Francine was here to dedicate the Jacques Cousteau memorial at Centro Investigaciones Biologicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR).
And here is the wreath that is always on my dining room table it is really very big abut 12 inches in diameter. Take your time, look closely, and you can see hundreds of different shells, a sea star, and some broken shells with gorgeous shapes. If you would like to know more about Mary’s shells contact here here Mary’s Shells: bigfishes2@aoldotcom

Mary always makes sure there is an orange scallop, and often a piece of sea glass on every wreath.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Sheryl permalink
    August 5, 2012

    nice memories!

  2. Patricia Klindienst permalink
    August 6, 2012

    Yes, yes, yes–the wagon, the beach walk, and searching, eyes down, every inch of sand along the tide line for anything that caught our eye. A lovely rendering of our shared past with Mom, who gave us a love of the beach as a lifetime gift, and of your new place to go haunting. I will always remember walking into the dining room in Amagansett on our wedding weekend to see Mary’s beautiful wreath surrounding a tall glass jar of sunflowers–a one-of-a-kind wedding gift I will treasure always. Hope Mary gets lots of requests from this posting!

    Everyone who comes to our place asks about the huge scallop shells on the table in the living room–one with thick ridges, bright pink, another pearlescent–found one morning as I walked your beach in Baja.

  3. Theresa Klco permalink
    August 7, 2012

    Beauitful shells….and memories of the past…we don’t have many shells on our beach in Hobe Sound but early in the morning it is the best place to be just to watch the sun rise and feel the joy of a new day. I could imagine not living near a beach.

  4. Dennis Fairs permalink
    August 7, 2012

    Love this Susan. Elaine has always been a shell collector, along with Nicky, our married daughter. We will definitely be walking the beach with our eyes fixed firmly on the sand. Just hope we don’t walk into anything large and hard. Ouch!
    Also love the honesty of your first blog on La Paz, good and bad. That’s exactly the kind of thing that we need to know. Can’t wait till October. Counting down the days……………………

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