A flotilla sails by

by | Aug 22, 2012 | Uncategorized | 13 comments

 It was raining the day that little Miss Bangles came to visit. Never mind, I’d just brought back a treasure box after my breakaway trip to the bach. She wanted to explore and unpack every bag. First the bleached mussel shells . . .

 Then the bag of coloured stones. Every one of them was our ‘favourite’.

 Before long the mussel shells had become kayaks, and were loaded up with ‘people’

of varying sizes

 But because it was raining, they had to have roofs over their heads

and comforting houses to go home to.

And so I watched a flotilla of shells sailing through the afternoon, bringing with it happy memories of my childhood. Because it was after the war and few toys were to be had, we explored nature’s abundance day after day and discovered a world of constant magic and delight.

 And then another layer of memory emerged as the flax snail shells gathered in close. . .

. . . of a perfect day when, with a lover, I strode the beach between two light-houses, from Cape Reinga to Cape Maria Van Diemen, at the very top of the North Island. The sky was azure, the sand dazzling white, the sea freshly rippling as we walked for three and a half hours to the lighthouse, and then three and a half hours back. We found these sun-bleached shells, scattered about everywhere, and also gathered fresh mussels which we swung in a kete between us as we strolled back along the sea’s edge.

And now, the little one is lost in her own world of shells and stones, kayaks, voyages, and little sheltering houses. Imagination and memory billow like clouds in the space between us.


  1. lifeonthecutoff

    “Imagination and memory billow like clouds in the space between us.” Oh, dear Juliet, you touch my very soul with this and with Mira’s imaginative play. I thank you.

  2. Anne Dean Ruffell

    Beautiful shells for beautiful games and beautiful memories. I still have my collection of New Zealand shells on a shelf where I see them often and my mind swoops back to lazy sunny days on Oneroa Beach in Waiheke with my brother. We loved the patterned shells that looked like Maori patterns and we never found two the same.

  3. juliet

    * Penny, thank you for your heart-felt response. You are very welcome.

    * Anne, how lovely to hear of your shell memories, and to know that you still have the Waiheke shells all the way across the world. Thank you.

  4. Hotly Spiced

    What a lovely post. I had a childhood like yours where we didn’t have many toys and often had to make toys out of whatever we could find. We spent plenty of time on the beach too. The beaches of NZ have so many places to explore like sand dunes and rock pools and what’s washed up on the shore xx

  5. juliet

    Hi Charlie, weren’t we lucky to learn such resourcefulness in childhood, and to have had such free access to nature? So lovely to hear of your experience. Thank you.

  6. Lynley

    What a lovely post Juliet. Stories within stories.

    Nature provides so much for children to play and learn from. Such wonderful foundations for the formal learning to come.

    But also for future relationships where caring that people are warm, sheltered and cared for has been well absorbed in the early years.

  7. juliet

    Lynley, what a pleasure to have this thoughtful comment from you. Those early years are so important, aren’t they? As I value the good things I received as a child, I’m even more aware of what fertile ground these seeds fall on.

  8. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Juliet .. Little Miss Bangles will have many very many journeys in her mind .. such a beautiful post ..

    A very happy birthday methinks .. I do hope you’re with friends and family (or … and perhaps both!) .. have a great weekend … Spring is springing for you – happy times – Hilary

  9. juliet

    Hi Hilary, yes you are right about the birthday today! (Now how did you know?) The sun is shining and I am having a celebration this afternoon. Glad you enjoyed the shell journeys. Thank you.

  10. Ruth P

    Happiest Birthday Juliet! Hope it is a joy-filled day for you 🙂

    And in agreement with the other comments, it is v special to hear of Mira’s play. You are giving her rich times, and treasures (in connecting with nature and learning to articulate her own ideas of living and care)that she will be able to take into her future life!

  11. juliet

    Thank you Ruth, for your birthday wishes. Mira gave me three smooth stones which she had painted herself, and then carefully selected some red leaves from the garden, so I’ve placed the leaves around the stones. I’m so thrilled to see her enjoying natural things rather than lots of plastic toys.

  12. Marja

    Great memories Such a luxery to have such memories of the beach and such beautiful shells and such a luxery to have a little one around you which brings it all back to you.
    I hope you had a marvelous day today as well as it was your birthday. Happy birthday and may it be the beginning of a wonderful year. Arohanui

  13. juliet

    Thank you Marja. The shells carry such memories. I had a great birthday too thanks, and am about to post about it.


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