She Stores Sea Shells in the Attic.

I wiped the sweat from my brow. The heat was truly unbearable.  I’d been digging for what had felt like hours, and I didn’t seem to be making any progress.

No, I wasn’t in the Amazon Rainforest, or even Costa Rica…I was in my attic. There was enough junk here to build a house out of christmas ornaments and other various nick nacks. The land of the misfit toys had serious competition up here as well. Barbie pieces and forgotten dollhouse accessories lay strewn about in various corners of the attic (I truly must apologize to my mother for ever thinking these things would someday be missed if I got rid of them).

Cleaning out the attic was a nightmare I’d been avoiding for a long time.

I lifted box after box, bag after bag, looking inside to place value on my objects. Then I lifted a bag that was barely in one piece, and the contents inside laid a blanket of guilt on me that I didn’t expect.


A bag full of seashells.

Myrtle beach

Seashells that hadn’t been missed for as long as they’d been in that attic. I couldn’t tell you what year I’d collected them, I couldn’t tell you who I’d collected them with (even though the dead crab claw in the bag hinted at my brother’s work), and I definitely couldn’t tell you what I was going to do with them now.

Throw them away? Goodwill certainly didn’t want them.

The only thing I could tell you was that they were from Myrtle Beach…and I suddenly yearned to return them to the sea.

In recent years I’ve been very careful about what I take from the earth. The earth doesn’t owe me anything, so why should I walk around collecting things as if I have a right to them. As if any of us really have a right to anything on this earth. We are born with nothing, and we take nothing with us when we leave.

We are born with nothing, and we take nothing with us when we leave.

Seeing those forgotten shells reminded me of why I’d promised myself years ago to “only take photographs.”

In California there is a place called Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. A beach decorated in sea glass created from time and litter. I’ve heard that there isn’t much glass anymore.

The Petrified Forest National Park has made it their mission to protect the petrified wood of the park, even rerouting and closing certain roads. But there are consequences from stealing their wood; it’s cursed. Whether you believe it or not, the issue with taking things from nature is that there aren’t immediate consequences, and once we realize the damage it may be too late.

Petrified stump in the Petrified Forest National Park. Photo taken by Amber Stoerp.

Who’s to say that Myrtle beach won’t have the abundance of shells in the future? Who’s to say it will? Either way, there is a bag of seashells in my attic that I feel guilty about.

We are destroying the very thing we love by believing that nature is free for the taking, and something to be collected, not preserved.


If you walk down the beach in Montezuma, Costa Rica, you will come across a cove called “Colorado beach”. This area is particularly unique as the sand is a completely different color and is covered with colorful little pebbles, polished by the waves and sand. I yearned to take one of those pebbles home with me. I even picked up a few, held them for a while, and then let them go. I had to tell myself, “These are mine, but I have to leave them here.” I held them in my hands, turned them over a few times, and looked at their colors; hues of reds and greens. I did my best to make them a memory I wouldn’t forget. I prayed that no one would take my rocks.

Now, I pray that no one takes my rocks, wraps them in a garbage bag and forgets them in their attic for more than a decade. 

Every now and then I become tempted to take things from the earth. I want to set them on my shelf. To make them a conversational piece, to have something tangible from my journey, but I have to limit myself. I have to force myself to enjoy it in that moment, and then let it go.

-Sweet C


Click here to learn about glass beach.

Click here to learn about the petrified forest.

Click here to learn about the curse of the petrified wood.


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