Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Knobbed Whelk

I've been thinking about the impulse to label and categorize. Take this shell, for example. I picked it up today after promising myself I would collect no more. The big bag of shells yesterday should  have been enough. And since today's walk was a much chillier one — stiff breeze blowing, long-sleeved shirt and sweatshirt — my hands would have been warmer stuffed in my pockets. Except they were too busy picking up whelk shells.

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.


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