According to astrology, I am Cancerian. A hard outer shell protecting vulnerable flesh. A creature tied to the tides and ruled by the moon.
According to biology, I am female. I wax and wane, ripen and bleed in time with the cycles of the moon.
I was walking on the beach at low tide when I found a live sand dollar.
Until then, I’d only ever seen their bleached husks, smooth and grayish white. The folkloric currency of mermaids or the lost city of Atlantis.
But when they’re alive, they’re rough and prickly and purple, covered with little moving spines. A species of echinoderm. Flattened, burrowing sea urchins.
It was a “spring tide”: an extremely high or low tide that occurs at the new or full moon, when the gravitational pulls of the moon and sun are combined due to their alignment. Syzygy.
The sea springs out and back in, revealing rippled and pockmarked craters in the sand.
The sand dollar was perfect in its pulsating purpleness. I held it in my hand, tempted to keep it.
I waded with it through the tide pools, approached the shallow breaking waves. And I threw it as far as I could back into the retreating ocean.
It was mine for an instant, but not mine to keep.
In French, the words for sea and mother are homophones: mer and mère.