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One Man’s Beach: Return of the Limpets

By Matt Love

For the TODAY

Published on July 26, 2016 3:49PM

I walked on a beach trying to learn how to walk on a beach without a dog. I can’t say it was going that well. There was no bounce, no saunter.

But I was forcing myself to walk anew all the same. I had to move.

I took notice of my surroundings. Noticing always helps me. It enables unforeseen changes of positive inward directions.

What I noticed on the beach that morning: three people gearing up to fish for perch; a wood scavenger inspecting a cedar prize marooned on some risky rocks; three pelicans flying overhead; gulls here and there.

I looked down and it caught my eye: an old friend I hadn’t met in four years. A keyhole limpet! The beautiful shell remains of a marine gastropod (sea snail).

When I lived in the Newport area, I used to find three or so a day. My record haul was 13. I collected hundreds of them and they decorated my truck, house and classroom. I learned the average limpet lives on intertidal rocks and eats algae; it can exert up to 80 pounds of pressure on a rock; it gets hit by 8,000 waves a day!

I gave limpets away as gifts and talismans and turned them into a creative writing curriculum. They became sagacious character in my articles and books. I was convinced that by peering through the keyhole of the shell, I could see beyond reality and discover important personal truths.

I convinced others of the limpet’s magical powers of revelation. Some thought me insane but I hardly cared. They’d never found one and looked through. They’d never know.

My old friend the limpet had returned! What timing! Our reunion coincided at precisely the point in my life when I needed a re-examination of myself and my future without my beloved husky.

The keyhole beckoned, but not yet.

Joy enveloped me and I kept searching for limpets. I found one, then another and that was all. They were tiny specimens, the size of fingernails. I preferred the larger ones, but you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.

I sat down on the beach and arranged my bounty in the sand. Which one would I choose?

A slightly chipped one called to me. I picked it up, raised it to the sky, and then brought it close to my right eye. I stood up and looked through the keyhole.

There it was.

Matt Love is the author/editor of 14 books, including “The Great Birthright.” His books are available at coastal bookstores and his web site, nestuccaspitpress.com

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