Thanks for the Camels


A few days ago I was walking along the beach with my seven year old daughter. Beach walks have sort of become our thing. On a Saturday or Sunday we head down to the water and let our toes soak as we travel along the beach.

She likes to look for shells and this day was a pretty good day for them. I found some interesting curvy ones and the cutest little barnacle. She found a most perfect, beautiful white clam shell. We carried them and kept on walking.

Some days there’s a lot on trash on the beach, washed up from Cuba or somewhere else in the Caribbean. We don’t get a lot of days like that, but I actually enjoy when they happen, because you can find the most interesting things. An old shoe, a Barbie Doll. My friend even found someone’s false teeth.

This day was not a trash day. Just shells, except for one little item—a small plastic camel. No other man-made items except for this little camel.

My daughter of course was very excited and started theorizing about whether it was a family member’s spirit animal (she suspects hers might be an armadillo). The discovery of the little toy did feel quite magical. I didn’t deny the whole spirit animal thing, I just picked the camel up and curled it in my hand and headed home.

I’ve always been on the fence about magic and things associated with New Age thinking. There is a very rational side of me that believes most of these signs, the odd connections, and the seemingly magical events are really just products of wishful thinking. As humans we look for patterns, we yearn for meaning and we when want it bad enough, we create it in our minds, making it feel real.

Then there’s the dreamer in me that says “maybe this universe is really so complex, so intricate and everything is so tightly connected that these things…all things… happen for a reason. “ This part of me believes that everything that lands at your feet, enters your world with cosmic purpose. Who knows, maybe we are connected to animals who watch us, guard us, and send puzzling messages on the beach.  

Tonight I looked up the symbolic meaning of camels. Next to the flashing ads for psychic hot lines I read that camels represent a long hard journey ahead. Hmm. I sort of feel like I just finished a big journey and I’m ready to unpack my bags and put up my feet. Do I really need to do another one?

Ultimately I think the “magic “we encounter can mean whatever I choose it to mean. It’s irrelevant why a plastic camel appears on our path. It’s how we choose to interpret it. If it feels like magic to you, then it is.

But the story isn’t over yet…

The following day I decided to walk alone on the beach. It was the same kind of day, no trash, just shells. I walked and walked, scanning the ground for interesting things when I stopped in my tracks. At my feet—I kid you not—was a small box with a camel on it. It was an empty box of Camel cigarettes. No other trash, just that. Sure, maybe some careless fisherman dropped it there, no magic, just chance rolling its dice, but you know what? It feels as magic as could possibly be to me.

I choose to believe.

To me, I hear the message of these beach relics loud and clear, “Yes, magic is out there. It’s everywhere, just open your eyes and see.”  And for the camels?  I choose to believe they are speaking in their own way:”You are a traveler on a long, sometimes difficult path, but with strength and fortitude you, and all life’s travelers, can make it through.”




  1. This is totally amazing. We humans can’t begin to understand why things happen, but we have always made our stories to try to understand these mysteries.

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