Jar of shells Flickr.com/Image Credits: Flickr.com/Kevin Harber

‘Hold it close and you can hear South Africa’

More than the sound of the sea, I hear a childhood.

Jar of shells Flickr.com/Image Credits: Flickr.com/Kevin Harber

The travelling suitcase that became my life, is packed with those  definable gifts I cannot live without. Photographs, letters, my mother’s recipe book, and the shells.

In the past seven years I have crossed the ocean and moved many times, only to wrap and unwrap a glass vase containing these precious echoes of the sea, first place on what little surface I can find. These shells are a diary of my life.

There are no better beaches in the world than in South Africa. No, I am not listening, only to tell you, that my early days at the beach were worth the year of waiting.

‘Listen.’ my mother told me. ‘Hold it close and you can hear the sea.’

‘Listen.’ I told my children. ‘Hold it close and you can hear the sea.’

None are marked, December or Zinkwazi, deep within the vase, the shells are the stories.

My mother went home with sea water for the nannies. I went home with a shell, or a pebble to mark the sun-kissed days at Umhlanga Rocks, off the pier at South Beach in Durban or when granny gave Madison a spiralled piece of perfection at San Lameer. Bring it here I beckoned, we will add it to the shell vase. As tradition grew, so did the collection.

The Wild Coast, The Cape Shores. Kwa Zulu Natal. Each brings it’s bounty for the rock pool fishing nets. The bounty is endless for foraging babes in bikini bottoms and sun-streaked curls. Rather than fish, it was the ‘kiss one and release the rest back to the sea’, to choose one beauty for the vase.

It stands in London today. Survived the tempests of travel and life. There is an orchestra in there, and grown up now, they still pick them up, listen quietly and smile. These shells are a library of our lives when summer was the most important season, when life was good and the cup plentiful with nature.

‘I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky…’  For now the sea is with me, and I shall take her where ever the road leads on … for I can listen to the childhood of forever.

This post originally appeared on London Green Africa