Monday, October 1, 2007


This key hole sand dollar was photographed on the beach at Wallops Island. Although a recent addition to the beach (it was washed up and stranded during a storm), it has already begun to break apart as part of a series of taphonomic processes that will eventually yield particles of calcium carbonate sediment grains. The story of the irregular, infaunal urchin, has inspired me to write the following. Good, bad, or indifferent - I hope it will inspire you to take what you see for more than its face value and extend your own experiences and ideas.

Once plankton and benthon, now urchins tossed ashore
by wind and waves and tides galore
come dollars from the sea.

On the beach their time is fleeting in their best
away go their spines and tissues and then their test
away go dollars from the sea,
it is but sediment they shall be!


Anne said...

I love the image of the sand dollar and how even as it is cracked and degrading it somehow still maintains its wholeness and beauty. Perhaps the sand dollar maintains a memory of its parts so even through its brokeness it retains some kind of completeness. This gives me hope.

Jim Lynch said...

Nice photo and poem.

Sand dollars are everywhere in front of my house on the southern end of Puget Sound in Washington state. I like the plant-like designs on their backs that hint at the fact they are distant relatives of starfish. And I love the fact that they have thousands of tiny velcro-like feet that move them through the sand one grain at a time.

And when people go beachcombing with me and aren't paying attention, I ask them if they hear that crushing sound? They say, yes, and I point out that they're killing sand dollars and need to watch where they step.

Barb said...

The photo, the poem, and the discussion led me to want to know more about sand dollars, prompting me to want to "...look at it very, very closely..." So I did a little research (via Google) on the sand dollar. It's quite an amazing creature - which of course could be said of any of the ocean's creatures when you look at them closely.

In the case of the sand dollar, the beautiful fragile round white discs we see on the beach are the vacated skeletons When they're alive they're covered with short, dark spines that look almost like fur, and in the water they can use the spines to help push food into their mouths. They generally live in the shallows. And can you imagine this? These little round discs are able to stand on edge in shallow water! They secure themselves in the muddy bottom. They will eat grains of sand to add to their body weight to keep from being washed away in the currents!

Sand dollars are cool!

LRmom said...

Wonderful poem and yes, they are amazing creatures. Of all the studies I did in college, my favorite was the small invertebrates of the ocean. I loved the sea cucumbers and all those jellies.