I was wading through the shallows of the Pacific Ocean, searching for a souvenir to give to my mother. She likes it when I bring her rocks from all over the world.
As I scavenged, I remembered that the occasional sand dollar will pop up, if you are diligent and know where to look. I found some scraps and shards, but had difficulty finding one good, whole dollar. Just a bunch of sand half-dollars and quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.
As the original objective was stones, I revamped my search, forsaking the thought of sand dollars for awhile. I looked for darker colors, since sand dollars are usually white, and rocks came in gray, black, orange, and every other color than white. Well… the interesting ones do, at least. Then, I came across this guy. If you didn’t already know, this is not a dirty sand dollar, but a live one.
Yep, this is a healthy, adolescent sand dollar. I didn’t know they were alive, yet didn’t know how else sand dollars could have been created or grown until I looked it up afterward. Something told me that this was not for taking home, but that’s not why I left it there.
As I held it in my hand, slowly killing it (it’s more than likely dead at this point, as I discarded it on the beach much too far from the water, and they can only live without water for a matter of minutes), I thought about how useless it is that I collect these things. Somehow, it’s never been enough to see one or find one, I always have to take it home with me.
Unlike the value of a paper dollar, which gains value as you hold it in your pocket and collect more, the value of a sand dollar depreciates, especially with the more you collect. Dead or alive, they contribute to the ocean where they’re from. To take them home is to take away from the ocean, and from the excitement someone else might get from finding it, too.
I’ll probably keep a dead one at some point because I’m a young man well set in my ways at this point in my life, but I want to make a resolution to do as I’ve done with this one – take a picture of it, and put it back where I discovered it, or better yet, hide it so the joy of finding it increases for another.
That picture will have far more worth, as a picture will also note my aging fingers, the length of my legs and distance to the ground, the smile of friends’ faces, should I hold it up with them in the background, and remember the shade of yellow-brown in the sand on that particular day. I hope to collect a pocketful of sand dollars this way, and that will be worth so much more than the paper dollars it takes to buy a plane ticket to go find them.