The "shell tree" at the end of the spit of land that is Long Beach where I walk has changed with the years. When I moved to Cape Cod eight years ago, this tree was alive. It had green leaves, it stood up about three feet on a dune back from the edge of the water. There were other trees. Over these years the sand has been pulled back into the sea, probably distributed elsewhere. The tree died and people began to put broken welk shells on the branches (myself among them).
Many limbs have disappeared -- I did not realize how very many when I visited the tree this morning --the first time since last summer I've walked the mile out to the very end of Long Beach to visit the tree. The upper photo is one I took this morning, it looks very sparse. I'm sure more shells will be added to it as summer progresses, many fall off in winter's storms. But the limbs are fewer, less twiggy.
The lower photo was last summer. the shells are dense and the sand wears a necklace of horseshoe crab shells (molted ones). I'm glad the tree is still there. Actually two years ago the sand was much lower exposing roots. But it's being piled up more, now, around the trunk. The roots are not gathering water and nutrition but they are holding the tree in place against the storms.
I consider the shells, on the dead tree, the horseshoe crab shells arranged on the sand and the wind's caprices with my prayer flags, all a part of the natural wonder I witness year after year in this tiny bit of Cape Cod that feels "mine" even though it is public property.