But the urge to acquire is often accompanied by the urge to name and arrange, so I stopped in at the Tom's Cove Visitor's Center and picked up a little handout on shells. There are two types of whelks, I learned: the knobbed whelk, which has little points on each whorl, and the channeled whelk, which has grooves instead of points.
Learning its name is a way to honor the shell and its former inhabitant. It helps me appreciate it, which isn't hard given its beauty.
But there is much I still don't know: how a snail created this shell, how its hue came to resemble a thousand sunsets; how the ocean buffeted and burnished it and the waves tossed it up on the shore for me to find — all of those things I'll never understand.