One morning when my daughter was 3, she and I were walking along the seashore at low tide, searching for what the waves had brought in.
As we stepped carefully around the rocks – our rubber boots sinking into the squishy sand beneath our feet – we discovered seaweed, sand dollars, crabs, sea urchins, periwinkles and even a starfish or two.
“Can we take them home? Pleeeease?”
My daughter was busily filling her tiny fists with bits of life from the ocean. I explained that as beautiful as they were, we could only take empty seashells, and sand dollars that had long ago lost their purple fuzz. The rest of the animals had to remain at the shore, waiting for the water to collect them at high tide and carry them back into the sea.
“But why mommy?”
After a brief discussion about living versus non-living creatures, my daughter seemed to grasp the concept as we happily collected a small cache of lifeless shells, rocks and driftwood to take with us.
On the walk back to our house, I noticed my girl searching frantically in the long grass beside the trail. When I asked her what she was looking for, I was not expecting her answer. “I’m looking for dead squirrels and rabbits.”