Saturday, November 27, 2010

Coquinas and Childhood

I was digging through old pictures recently to find some of the best baby and kid shots of my sister, part of a little photo montage for her birthday. One of the shots I found was the one above, which reminded me of lines from one of my favorite Donald Justice poems:

There is a gold light in certain old paintings
That represents a diffusion of sunlight.
It is like happiness, when we are happy.

I always loved this photo -- partly because it was taken in one of our favorite places: Gulf Shores, Alabama, back in the early '80s when there were far fewer giant monolithic condos lining the beach and more vast strips of sea oats dotted with little beach houses. There was no oil in the water, our grandparents were still alive, the waves were gentle and glorious, and all we did for a week (and sometimes two) was swim and eat shrimp and read books and play cards and build sandcastles and dig for coquinas (shown here in their "angel wings" stage) and try to avoid sunburn.

But I also love this picture for its specifics: the light of nearly sunset; my father, who grew up coming to these beaches, about to throw me into the surf; the storm clouds retreating and the just-barely-there rainbow arcing through the left corner; and my little sister standing watching it all ... her stance suggesting excitement and fear and the thrill of waiting to get tossed into the sea. Seeing it again suggested certain connections between shell-collecting, the lines between innocence and experience, and the fears a father might have for his children.


This poem dug back into the sand.

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