The Sands of Time

Just as I think the beach and the dunes have no further lessons for me, I find there is infinitely more in this microcosm of existence in which I find myself.
There are many cowries that get washed up on this beach, all shapes sizes and colours. One day I found a perfectly formed cowrie, in miniature. It was about the size of my thumbnail. As I marvelled at the intricate attributes in something so small, I noticed that its colours were as yet unformed, neutral greys blending into cream. There were none of the speckled markings and colours that we associate with these shells.
If we look at other small creatures, we find similarities. Lion cubs have spots that they lose as they grow up. Young birds have soft feathers, which are exchanged for a harder more durable covering. We humans lose milk teeth in exchange for serviceable gnashers, our fontanel closes, our hair stiffens. There is a purpose for all these changes that occur during the progression of life. Each one is evolved to ensure the relevant toughness for survival.
As I continued musing over this minuscule cowrie shell, I wondered if there wasn’t more to development than simple survival of the species. Is there not a testing that happens at each stage, or phase, of growth that brings out character?
We had a week of howling gales that arrived in a crash of thunder and flash of lighting and five minutes of such intense wind I thought I would arrive in the Kruger Park unaided by any form of transport other than the wind. Walking the trail through the dune forest afterwards, I realised that the winds had performed a late summer pruning of sorts. Dead branches lay strewn all over the show, a few branches had been broken and it was quite a mess. A couple of trees had been upended too, all I am sure in order to provide firewood for the mussel gatherers! In the old scheme of things these would slowly deteriorate, providing food for myriads of tiny creatures along the way, and ultimately doing its part to restore nutrients to the soil.
Now, however, I see how the broken and in some cases, severely damaged trees are pushing out life. New growth abounds, not only on the trees, but also on the floor of the forest where for a short while more light was able to penetrate the canopy.
I read somewhere once about the beauty of wrinkles, because they described how a life had been lived. There are laughter lines that crinkle the eyes from the times of joy and happiness, the frown lines for the times when lessons needed to be learnt, each one telling a story of hope, of joy, of sorrow, of pain, creating a masterpiece of a life truly lived.
So I returned the young cowrie to the chaffing of the waves. I wonder if by some strange chance, I may find it again. If I do, will it be marked and worn, will it be more beautiful, or more noticeable, or will it gradually disintegrate, unable to stand against the force of the tides, the sand, and the rocks.

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