November 11, 2017

Island Living: How to Shut Up About Shelly Island


It seems that over the course of the summer and fall, two groups of people have formed: A group that is justifiably tired of hearing about Shelly Island, and a group that just won’t shut up about it.

As this article will clearly demonstrate, I am in the second group.

I adore that sandbar.

I adore that it changes on a daily basis. I adore that every time I go out there, I can rationalize eating pizza and cheesecake when I get home because I technically exercised. And I adore that I can go there under the guise of “work research,” and then spend hours gobbling up seashells like Pac Man on a sugar high.

But, as I have discovered over the past few weeks, not everybody shares my obsession and / or wants to talk about Shelly Island all the time.

My poor, long-suffering husband is a prime example.

At this point, he has mastered the art of smiling and nodding as I passionately go on and on about the difference between conchs and whelks, or how I saw an actual octopus on my last visit. (I totally did! It was amazing! And I can tell a 15-minute story about the 30-second encounter!)

My better half has also somehow been able to cope with the fact that almost all of our home’s décor is now made entirely out of seashells, and there is sand on pretty much every interior surface – including and especially our bed and couch.

So as a favor to my endlessly patient husband - and to all the other spouses, friends, and colleagues out there who are sick to death of hearing about seashells - I’m going to share what I’ve learned about shutting the heck up about Shelly Island.

Now don’t feel bad if you can’t follow any of these guidelines. I’m mainly writing this as an attempt to show my husband and loved ones that at least I tried to shut up about Shelly Island, and by reading this, you’re demonstrating that you’re giving it your best shot too.  

So here goes nothing:

If We Keep Talking, They Will Come

There’s a part of me that is thrilled that so many people share my love and fascination of amazing shelling. I had no idea that I wasn’t the only person by far with a full-fledged beachcombing obsession, and there’s a sense of comradery among us “can’t shut up” people who are excited about every trip.

But then there’s another, more genuine part of me that wants everyone to go away because every single shell on that sandbar is MINE.

And this part of me recognizes that if I keep talking about how awesome Shelly Island is, more and more people will head out there to see if I’m right.

So let’s all agree to change the conversation, just to reduce the competition.

I’ll start by stating, right now and in print, the following:

Shelly Island is awful. Everything that we have ever posted on Island Free Press that remotely suggested that Shelly Island is great was 100% Fake News.

There aren’t any shells there, ever. Also, there have been multiple shark, sting ray, and alligator attacks since it has formed. We didn’t publish anything about those hundreds of attacks because we are lazy, but I assure you, they happened.

Don’t go. Move along. There’s nothing to see here, folks.

Apparently sandbars change. A lot.

You know how someone will smell something weird – like an old sock or a mystery container in the refrigerator – and say “Wow, this smells awful!” and then you suddenly have to smell it too?

That’s pretty much how I felt at the beginning of the summer when everyone was saying NOT to swim to Shelly Island. Suddenly, I really, really wanted to swim there.

And I did, and survived both the potential sharks, and the current. (I even bought a Shelly Island T-Shirt to commemorate this fact.)

But then Shelly Island changed, and you could walk there, and suddenly I had a whole new thing to talk about. Which I did, ad nauseum.

Then we had a month full of storms, and Shelly Island changed again, disappearing and reappearing with every tide. It was remarkable, and once again, I shared in-depth details about the island’s new landscape with anyone who had ears.

Then starting a few weeks ago, the island connected during low tide, and vehicles who had been itching to drive on the sucker all summer long were finally able to cruise along the new sandbar. (I admit, I was ready to angrily glare at any ORV that crushed shells on their way out, but that rarely happened.)

So in the course of two seasons, we went from a sandbar that you had to use a boat, floatation device, or liquid courage to reach, to a skinny peninsula beach that you could drive on.

And man, did I talk about every change along the way. But in my defense, it was like discovering a new beach with every visit, as no two trips were ever exactly the same.

However, as numerous people explained to me over the course of a few months - including at least two marine geologists - “It’s a sandbar. And sandbars change a lot.” (In case you couldn’t tell, the marine geologists had to dumb down their explanations on my behalf quite a bit.)

In a sense, it’s a lot like my home during hurricane season or a winter full of nor’easters: Sometimes, my yard is a lake. Sometimes, my yard is a river. And sometimes, (and not as often as I’d like, I might add), my yard is just a plain old yard that is in desperate need of mowing.

So the regular landscape adjustments of Shelly Island aren’t that unusual, and perhaps shouldn’t be discussed in-depth with every change.

Not that this fact will stop me from dissecting every shoreline shift. Which brings us to…

If you absolutely do have to talk, there are people who will gladly listen

My husband is not my target audience when it comes to discussing seashells.

Especially if it’s a Saturday or Sunday in fall, and football is on.

But that audience most certainly exists, and you can usually find these folks on Shelly Island in a concentrated and stooped-over position.

One of the things I love most about going to that beach is that you don’t greet other people with a “Hello” or a “Lovely day.” Instead, the standard greeting is “HEY! You find anything good??”

And then you get to swap tips, and stories, and information, and the other person doesn’t mind that you never look directly at them, because you’re far too busy looking down and scouring the shoreline.

I’ve met a lot of wonderful people on that sandbar over the summer and fall, even if I never saw their faces and couldn’t tell you what they looked like.

And as competitive as us beachcombers are - (at least I assume we’re all obsessed and crazy like yours truly?) - we certainly appreciate other folks who are as nutty as we are.

So if you absolutely have to talk about the Shelly Island sandbar, go straight to the source. Like a group of beer lovers hanging out at a bar, your shelling addiction won’t seem as odd if you’re among folks who think like you do.

Just never forget, as I stated before, that I have already laid claim to every single shell out there.

Especially the whelks. And maybe the octopus too.

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