The beach was crowded last Friday. Men bearing coolers weaved between beach blankets, advertising "Bottles of water! Ice-cold Coronas!" and one man sold "Hot buttered corn-on-the cob!" out of a plastic bag (I passed).
The dry sand was hot - way too hot for comfortable walking - so I headed down near the water, where the wet sand was cooler and feet-friendly. I walked - Brighton Beach at my back, Coney Island's Wonder Wheel straight ahead - dodging squeeling toddlers and errant frisbies.
There was a large strip of shells running parallel to the shore line, and I tracked next to that, keeping an eye out for anything interesting. Mostly it was just razor clams and lady slippers. But then - sitting amidst those other shells - I spotted one scallop shell. Just one.
It wasn't a perfect specimen, it wasn't even all that pretty, but it was a scallop shell. And here's the thing about a scallop shell: it's a symbol of something. It's a marker on sign posts, a measure of pilgrims' progress, a centuries-old signal that you're headed in the right direction.
And for me - personally - it's the symbol of a long-dreamed dream that has recently been looming as a near-future possibility.
So I picked up that one scallop shell, because I thought it might just be for me.