The cool, salty water lapped at our legs as we waded gingerly over oyster shells and shimmering rocks, placing our faces close to the water to spy the sea surprises that scuttled below.

“Mom!  Mom!  Look, we found the hermit crabs!”  Turning I watched as my daughters cupped their hands with their ocean treasures inside, giggling as the crabs tickled their palms.  Happy to visit their ocean-dwelling friends, there could not be a better way to spend a late-June afternoon.

That was what I was thinking as I noticed a group of six or seven middle school age boys gather  nearby and peer intently downward.  Pulling something from the knee-deep waters, they formed a circle and bent their heads inward.  Curiosity getting the best of us, we moved towards them and asked, “What did you find?”

There, in the palms of two hands, was a huge snail, the largest one I had ever seen.  Like ever.  Spilling out from what appeared to be an outgrown shell, its base was a large circle of flesh, the shape of a full moon.  The boys took turns holding it very gently.

Letting us have a turn as well,  we examined the fleshy, intriguing creature. Studying it for a few moments, we gave it back to the boys, who placed it into the ocean, and then trod on their way to the sandy point that lay beyond.

This curiosity turned out to be a moon snail, a lovely name for the predatory creature that engulfs its prey with its fleshy foot, drills into shells with its radula, and extracts the contents for dinner.  Not romantic.  Or dreamy.  Simply, realistic.  Lovingly, we had held that snail in our hands like a wooly caterpillar, only to discover it behaved like a shelled shark . . . (but then, don’t we humans love our lobster dinners?)

Considering the cooperative behavior shown by the boys examining the snail, this experience posed a contrast to the perception of middle-school-boy antics. Boys who were gentle and respectful of marine life and responsive to us,  highlighting for me the ironies and surprises we find in life.

Snips and moon snails and puppy dog tails.  Sugar and spice and chasing hermit crabs.  The delightful experiences we stumble upon that imprint in our psyches and highlight the goodness and vivacity of others, reminding us just how much there is to learn and savor in our short, vibrant lives . . .

Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners