Travelling Shells

When I was a child, I loved collecting seashells along the New Jersey coast. I’d walk the beach, small bucket in hand, and find tiny rainbow coloured clam shells, the occasional little conch, scallop and mussel shells. There was also a round snail-like shell whose name I forget. I had a book, written in 1955, that I’ve kept to this day. I read it many times, pouring over the line drawings and photos. 

Shells in Jar

Shells in Jar

This love of shells has remained with me throughout my life. They’ve travelled with me to the various apartments I’ve lived in. The majority of shells and bits of coral in the glass jar in this post are ones I found on beaches in the Caribbean during the 1970s and early ’80s when I used to visit relatives there. There’s also the odd shell from other wanderings plus 4 or 5 interspersed that I bought in the ’70s while travelling in Florida.

Shells in Jar

Shell Book

In Honour of a Grand Kapok Tree

Kapok tree

Kapok Tree, St. John, Virgin Islands, 1970s

I got to thinking about the impact of nature in my early life.  Regular trips to the coast near Atlantic City instilled in me a love of the ocean and shells, which I collected when I was young.  Walks in shady woods by rivers and rocks also stand out and remain with me today. 

Kapok Tree, St. John, Virgin Islands, 1970s

Kapok Tree, St. John, Virgin Islands, 1970s

And then there were the trips I took to St. John in the Virgin Islands in the 1970s and ‘80s to visit family who had moved there.  In addition to the extreme beauty of the Caribbean, with its coral reefs and intensely coloured fish, I remember a particular tree I loved.  It was a huge kapok tree that stood near Cinnamon Bay and that was somewhat of a tourist attraction–although the island was not overrun by tourists in those years.  I had never seen a kapok tree.  I loved the buttress roots, the sides of which stood over five feet high, reaching out like giant arms to hold you.  I took many photos of that tree which I used as references for linocuts I made when back in Canada.  I decided I had better rescue those photos and scan them before they completely deteriorated. 

Kapok  Tree

Kapok Tree near Cinnamon Bay, St. John Virgin Islands, 1970s

That huge kapok tree was, I believe, destroyed during a hurricane after my family had moved away.  I have not seen this with my own eyes; it’s what a friend from the island told my family.  In honour of that magnificent tree, I’m posting these photos of it, along with images of two linocuts I made in the 1970s.

Kapok linocut

Kapok Tree at Cinnamon Bay, linocut by Lily S. May, 1974

Kapok Tree

Another linocut by Lily S. May of the Kapok Tree at Cinnamon Bay, 1974