"How do I love thee? Let me count the hearts..."
If we listen with our eyes, we can hear the seashore talking. One of its messages has been condensed into the charming book, sea glass hearts by Josie Iselin (2011, Abrams, New York).
So many of us have memories of walking along the shoreline and seeing snapshots in time of the erosional process on rocks, glass, plastic, shells, wood, and sometimes objects whose presence on the beach seemed incongruous. In this book, Josie Iselin has captured a heart-felt subset of these objects and offers them on pages that burst with light, light that jumps off the page, light that shines like happy hearts.
Printed as a quality fine-art book, sea glass hearts has removed the beach from what some call mermaid's tears, and has arranged the hearts of glass in whimsical arrangements befitting the mythical mermaids themselves.
Sadly, these sparkles of manmade rock are now in the minority on many beaches when compared with discarded plastics—plastics that disrupt the digestive systems of marine creatures large and small, plastics whose chemistry will continue to accumulate in the food web for centuries. The arrival of glass on our beaches was, in fact, a harbinger of the discarded plastics, not entirely benign but nowhere near as dangerous as what followed.
Fortunately there are numerous programs calling attention to and removing some of this plastic from our beaches and waters. Better yet, there are programs that are reducing the escape of plastic into the environment (e.g. Trash Backwards).
All the more reason why this book has an important place in today's world. As the author says in the introduction, "As plastic replaces everyday glass, we feel nostalgia for bottles and the stories behind them, collected piece by piece along the shoreline. When one of these frosted shards is a heart, however, this unassuming valentine simply embodies the romance of the beach and is thrust into our pocket with a smile."
Beauty, love, smiles—these glass hearts will also serve for centuries as conspicuous reminders of our carelessness and warnings that we must exercise more complete responsibility for our creations.