Gretchen Lynn Bellefeuille
I spotted it from a few feet away. Peeping through the rocks was a pattern of dull rose and lemon yellow. I moved closer to get a better look at what had caught my eye. Unsure of how this had ended up scattered among the other pebbles along the beach in Positano, I buried it into my pocket for a keepsake. As I carefully walked on top of the rocks, trying to not get my new white shoes dirty, I spotted another pop of color through the greys and charcoals. A smooth violet covered the top of an auburn stone. I shoved it into my pocket, giving the other rock a buddy.
I continued to walk the length of the beach with my mom, exploring this new city that we would stay in for a few days on break. This town is tucked in between Sorrento and Amalfi, with only one road to bring you there. The houses and buildings have been built one on top of another into the mountains along the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is usually crowded with tourists, but the middle of March is off season due to the cooler weather. Since it was not the peak season, the town almost felt deserted. With few people walking around and many shops and restaurants closed, we wondered how people made a living here. No more than thirty people were on the beach that day, but for us, the emptiness made it more enjoyable and relaxing.
Upon reaching the cliffs that would cut off the access to the small beachfront, I noticed two other women reaching towards the piles of rocks. They had collected a whole towel full of those colorful, weathered rocks. After introducing ourselves, I found out that they were pieces of broken china, pottery, and mosaics that had been tumbling in the sea for decades and washed onto the shore. The two women, vacationing from California, had some experience with this hobby. The mom has been collecting stones and sea glass from various beaches for years. Like the pottery, she told us that sea glass has been tumbled and ground up until the sharp edges are smoothed and rounded. During this process, the glass loses its slick surface and gains a frosted appearance. She told us that the rarest colors to find are yellow and red because those ones are the oldest. Yellow and red bottles used to be produced, but it became too expensive. The pottery, she explained, may have originated from discarded 18thand 19thcentury porcelain that was made in Europe.
My mom and I were fascinated by the story behind these colorful rocks we had stumbled upon. The sea glass seemed to be more common and easier to find, so we challenged ourselves and searched for all the mosaics we could find. We then spent hours walking up and down the beach on the hunt for blues, purples, greens that would pop up. Sometimes, we had to do some digging. Swiping our feet through the rocks or turning them upside down to see if we had hit the jackpot. As the blue fell from the sky and night grew upon us, we hiked back up to our place to show each other our finds. We laid them out and arranged them in coaster-sized squares – to eventually lay into a mold when we get back to the states.
The winds were strong that night and the pouring rain pounded at the windows. We knew that the tide would wash up many more treasures, so we went back and searched for a while the next day. And we weren’t the only ones who had thought this… the two Californian women were also back to add to their collection. My mom and I both left with 5 pounds of rocks, and because we only traveled with a backpack, we had to carry them around for the rest of our trip. But we didn’t care because this was something that we had shared together and had a lot of fun doing. Plus, we would be able to make a great souvenir out of all our findings.