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Hunting for Treasure


I am on my annual Thanksgiving vacation to Cumberland Island, GA with my family. Tomorrow, we will hunt sharks teeth – one of my favorite expeditions on the island. The post below was written two years ago shortly after I taught my older son how to hunt. I hope you enjoy it. 

Hunting for Treasure

This afternoon I am teaching my son the fine art of hunting for shark’s teeth.  It’s a challenging pastime, to say the least, but as absorbing and all consuming as any good hobby should be.

Our hunting grounds are off the coast of Georgia where, ages ago, dredge from the bottom of a river was dumped during the construction of the Inter-Coastal Waterway. I’ve found teeth as small as a grain of rice and as big as my hand when hunting here. Most important, the teeth are plentiful which makes for an excellent classroom.

First, I show my son the unique “T” or “Y” shapes of most teeth. Then we review the particular shades and combinations of black and gray that are found only in these fossils.

The final part of our lesson is slightly more nuanced – especially for a seven year old. Holding a picture of the shape and color of a shark’s tooth firmly in our minds, we must start scanning the shoreline, filtering out anything that does not match our mental image.

This is especially tricky because the beach is littered with Grand Imposters – bits of black shell in the coveted “Y” shape or a smooth gray stone half buried in the sand. They appear to be the treasure we seek, but upon closer examination, they are nothing more than fool’s gold.

I think the reason I love hunting shark’s teeth is that it requires so much of me. All of my focus and attention must be laser sharp – there is no room for distraction. I must be fully present and in the moment – seeing only what is right in front of me. Anything less and my treasure will elude me.

My son’s attention span is short and the bright sunlight has given way to long gray shadows, making it difficult to spot our quarry.

Tomorrow, as long as the tides and weather cooperate, we will try again. My hope is that with practice, he will learn to overlook the Grand Imposters and train his eye on the particular prize he seeks. I tell him that if he can learn to do that, one day he will look down to see his treasure lying at his feet. He will simply reach down and take hold of it.

He smiles and takes my hand.

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