The Joys of Travel and Life: The Shell Collector

Ventura Pier by Steve Cattanach

by Ken McAlpine

Welcome to our weekly blog about the joys of travel and life. For the two are one. Travel, like life, is about making the most of our moments, for we only have so many. With that in mind, another moment together. Thank you for coming along for the ride…

The Shell Collector

Allen Dixon – clergyman, studier of driftwood, shell spell-caster – strolls out of his home and ambles up the sun-splashed dirt drive to see exactly who is poking around inside his souvenir shop on this spring evening. In my defense, the door to the shop was open. Inside, phantasmagoric creations call to me: enormous crabs the size of trash can lids, conch lamps, mirror frames sprouting colorful flowers, a complete bar, waist high and fifteen feet long – all made entirely out of shells.

In New York, this is breaking and entering. On Long Island, in the Bahamas, this is opportunity to browse without bumping elbows with other shoppers; and now engage in pleasant conversation. And perhaps – if you listen closely to a man who can make 150 different kinds of flowers out of seashells – enlightenment.

Dixon steps through the open door. He says nothing. He nods and smiles. He goes into the back and returns with two crates and two beers. He places the crates on the floor in the middle of the store, and we sit.

Allen Dixon has no idea how long it takes him to make his creations. He doesn’t care. He might walk 15 miles of beach a day, admiring how the light falls on the water, collecting whatever speaks to him. Some days, he collects nothing.

He scratches his goatee.

“Does it matter?” he says.

Ken McAlpine has traveled the world as a writer, from the depths of Palau to the heights of the Andes, but no matter where he goes, he can’t wait to come home to Ventura. We hope his stories remind you of why you love the place you call home, and this gift called life. For more info, please go to

Top image by Steve Cattanach