I will forever remember finding a particular envelope the week after Christmas while sorting through odds and ends and putting away decorations and writing syllabi.
I thought the paper envelope was filled with some sort of fragrance beads, so I got a glass bowl, opened the envelope and shook them out. A bunch of yellow beads fell out, accompanied by about 50 tiny assorted seashells mixed in with tiny beads.
I spent the better part of the afternoon admiring each one of them and then placing them in to a spiral pattern in the bowl. I loved each of them.
The seashells tell a story about creatures effortlessly – almost helplessly -- creating beautifully perfect geometric art that they leave as their gift.
These creatures did not have the choices of being kind and helpful – or did they? Am I underestimating them? -- but still they found a way to be generous.
I suddenly want to know more about the communities of whatever these are but oh wait. I am dumbstruck. Entirely.
I am a grown human being and I do not know what to call the creature that lived and died and created seashells.
Are they snails? I’m thinking snails are land things.
Snails are like Gary on Spongebob. Wait, is Spongebob really under the sea? Is Gary a native underwater sea snail or is he from above the water like Sandy the Squirrel and does that explain why Gary meows? I want to look this up but stay on track.
The creatures that made these seashells can’t be “snails” and I’m stumped but motivated to get through this and find the right word so I can finish writing this and finally grade.
I think of typing in “What died to become a seashell?” or “How are seashells made?” but I think google would laugh at me.
Of course I know how seashells are made.
They are made by math, by the golden spiral and by the Pythagorean swirly square root thing.
Each sea shell is made by a divine creature that instinctively grew at exactly the right speed; they could not go faster or slower, they could not grow into a shape any different than the one they were intended to become.
I can’t imagine they were aware of their shells, but then I can also imagine an entire show based on snails having shell envy and some snails getting plastic shell surgery to look more like a conch.
I finally did search “how are seashells made” and have an answer that is boring and ugh. The smug top sentence for any big search should be disregarded.
Then I switched to google image search and got this treasure for you. You’re welcome.
At least now I have an answer.
A variety of sea creatures leave their shells. They have all sorts of names. Mollusks and clams and oysters and guess what? As the narrator I get to make choices and for this story we are going to call them sea snails, and leave their names a mystery that died when their entire family-village perished in whatever catastrophic event that caused all these shells to be seeking refuge halfway around the world from their home.
How do I know they are from far away? The tag on the bag of shells read “Made in the Philippines.” Of course I read it, I look for hints and clues everywhere, all the time.
It did not mention whether the contents were food or could be given to children – do they care if anyone is harmed? -- but I bless their hearts anyway, because that’s the right thing to do.
The Philippines are pretty far away from Tallahassee, an unimaginable distance to be covered by any snail, much less a dead one.
That’s right. I now realize my question is really “How fast can a dead snail run?” and the answer has been answered by every single one of these shells.
It moved as quickly as it needed to in order to go where it was intended to go, and the universe did the rest of the work.
*On exam day I will have enough rocks and stones so that each of you can pick two shells and two stones; one of each to keep, and one of each to give away.