Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Channeled Whelk

In her book Gift From The Sea,
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
highlights 5 seashells
that she finds on a solitude
vacation at the beach.
Each shell represents something
that she wants to remember
when she returns to her family of
5 children and a hectic life as a
wife and mom.
The first shell is the channeled whelk.
The hermit crab who may have
once inhabited the shell is
now gone. "But his shell--it is
simple; it is bare, it is beautiful.
Small, only the size of my thumb,
its architecture is perfect, down to
the finest detail. Its shape, swelling
like a pear in the center, winds in a gentle
spiral to the pointed apex.
My eye follows with delight
the outer circumference of that
diminutive winding staircase up which
this tenant used to travel.
My shell is not like this, I think.
How untidy it has become! For
to be a woman is to have interests and
duties, raying out in all directions from the
central mother-core, like spokes from the hub
of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is
essentially circular. We must be open to all points
of the compass; husband, children, friends,
home, community; stretched out, exposed,
sensitive like a spider's web to each breeze that
blows, to each call that comes. How difficult
for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of
these contradictory tensions, and yet how
necessary for the proper functioning of our lives.
How desirable and how distant is the ideal of
the contemplative, artist, or saint - the inner
inviolable core, the single eye.
With a new awareness, both painful and humorous,
I begin to understand why the saints were
rarely married women. The bearing, rearing,
feeding and educating of children; the running
of a house with its thousand details; human
relationships with their myriad pulls - woman's
normal occupations in general run counter
to creative life, or contemplative life, or
saintly life. What is the answer? There is no
easy answer, no complete answer. I have only
clues, shells from the sea. The bare beauty
of the channeled whelk tells me that one
answer, and perhaps the first step,
is in simplification of life, in cutting
out some of the distractions."


  1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

    I also wanted you to know that I appreciated your wise, spirit-filled comments that you shared a few days ago on my dining room chair post. Thank you!

  2. Thanks, modgirl ~ I'll be posting comments about the other shells from the book in the future!

  3. Beautiful! The thrill of finding them is part of the enjoyment! ;)

  4. i loved that and you will never know how very timely that was for me!

  5. thanks for sharing. it made me want to read the book.

  6. Thanks, everyone ~ I'll post another entry about the next shell later this week.


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