Pandemic hobby brings peace, becomes habit

pandemic hobby of creating with collected shells

How’s your pandemic hobby coming along? Mine brings me peace, and it keeps me in the moment. In the Now. Because as I like to live: Life is Now.

I read a New York Times commentary by a woman who had ‘1,000 pandemic hobbies‘ but mastered none. I can relate. I’ve been unable to follow through with most hobbies or projects throughout my life, abandoning many before completion. This is a flaw of mine, pandemic or no. If I’m not totally engaged in something, I drop it and move on.

This pandemic pause forced me to slow down a bit. It surprises me that I have kept this website going- that we’ve posted something new every day since our initial quarantine in the Philippines. And, I did not even realize I’ve followed through on my pandemic hobby, until my husband Tedly pointed it out.

Pandemic hobby: collecting shells

By now, after more than a month, I know the good spots to collect the best shells on the beach. Often I return sun kissed and sweaty, and oh so happy about the treasures the sea gave to me.

one of the spots with good shells for ellen's pandemic hobby

It blows my mind: I bent down to pick up each shell from the sand or from the receding tide. One shell at a time; one day at a time.

I didn’t set out by saying, “I’m going to line the rooftop perimeter and make things and I need X number of shells.” Instead, my mindset was, “Well, would you look at that. Isn’t that a beauty?” I simply enjoyed the experience. That was my ultimate, initial goal.

Five weeks flew by, and I had something to show for my daily hobby, and habit: a big pile of shells. Now, I’m making things with them. I have a lot of leisurely time to do it.

Shell projects

Most of the shells are on the perimeter of the roof of our apartment. The owner hopes to build a third floor, but plans currently are on hold.

I take the best of the best shells off the rooftop, clean them, then sort them for shellacking. I coat them to make them shiny – as if they were still in the water. For now, I place them in clear jars. It’s touch to find decorative jars in the small town of Caticlan, and the even smaller town of Malay. It took me hours going into every store I saw.

Between the roof and my shellac boxes – and two finished projects – there must be thousands of shells.

Someone asked me if I was going to ship the shells ‘home.’ No, no I’m not. All of the beautiful shells came from Yolly’s beach, and so they stay here. They are not mine, even though the sea gives them to me for free.

Late this afternoon I gave two extra large glasses filled with shells to Yolly as gifts. She’s the owner of the Hangout Beach Resort, where we are staying.

I’ve found a lot of peace on this beach. And, I’m here only here, at this peaceful place because Yolly took us in and allowed us to rent an apartment when no one else would.

I might eventually make other things with shells, like glue them on the perimeter of a mirror, of create a candle holder. But so far I haven’t found the right supplies. There are no arts and crafts stores here like there are in America.

One shell, one day, at a time

My pandemic hobby has become part of my daily routine, and I would do well to acknowledge this. To give myself some credit for the consistent effort, since it’s my nature to cut and run once I’m bored.

But I don’t get bored shell collecting, combing the beach, seeing the same people every day, chatting with new people, observing changes to the rocks and sand and shoreline. Swimming. Pulling fishing nets with locals. Once the catch is reeled in, I pick up my shell bag and mosey along.

Over several weeks, nearly every day, I have collected shells. Searching, bending, examining, wondering; collecting, walking, relaxing.

If I could apply this sort of dedication to a daily creative writing routine, I would have a book to show for it.

Pandemic hobby begets pandemic hobby

Some time ago, some children began to happily collect shells for me as I passed by their neighborhood each day.

It occurred to me the kids might enjoy a bit of deal making. I explained my plan to them. If they found extra large, perfect (not broken) shells, and presented them to me, I might be willing to buy them. These children are not from wealthy families.

The kids brought me big shells, I looked them over, rejected some outright, then we haggled on prices for the potential keepers. I offered my final price and asked, “Deal?”

“Deal!” they said, and definitively nodded affirmation.

One rare specimen cost me 20 cents. What a deal for that kid! Something he found for free on the beach — turned into money.

So far, it’s only cost me $1.10 for several large shells from several children. I have a feeling there will soon be more competition. I’ll be ready with a few extra pesos.

Thanks for reading, “Pandemic hobby becomes habit.”

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