April 8, 2021

The Shell

The white conch shell is smooth and cool to the touch. Pale orange striations emphasize the curves and walls, spiraling out the tip moving all the way through the bottom edge. There's a large hole in the center, so you can see an inner spiral, the same pale orange now merged with a hint of salmon pink.

In November of 1989, I went to my parents beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It was cold, snow on the sand drifts, everything closed and shuttered for the winter. Only the movie theater was open, it was showing the first Back to the Future, entertainment for the few locals who rode out the harsh storms and kept the town intact for the summer tourists.

I stopped at a gas station and bought a bunch of junk food - sour cream and onion potato chips, Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip cookies, probably some beer. I'd also brought along a bag of mushrooms which I promptly ate.

I meandered out on the dunes for a long time, sat and looked at the ocean, seeing over and over in my head walking in and not returning. There was a scene in a book I had read as a teenager, I think it was in  The Fog by James Herbert.  where a young lesbian woman starts to commit suicide by walking into the ocean, changes her mind, but then drowns as the hordes of "zombies"  trample her under the waves.

I was 23 years old, recently graduated from Wesleyan, was in a relationship with someone I was deeply in love with, and about to go on a grand adventure - the Global Walk for a Livable World. Yet, I felt depressed and incomplete, lonely, and empty.

Dragging my gaze away from the gray stormy breakers that seem to be whispering my name, I hugged my knees to my chest and glanced down at the frozen sand. There was the conch shell. I picked it up and thought I'd probably find a whole one if I just walked down the beach a little more. As I turned it in my hands, I saw that it was whole. Even in the flaw you could see the inner spiral. Even the word  "whole" has the word "hole" in it.

I walked back to the beach house, turned on MTV and watched a documentary on Aerosmith.  munched chocolate chip cookies and ate my potato chips. I've now had this seashell for 31 years, usually it's in my healing room. I'll hand it to clients and tell them the story. I watch them make the connection in a holistic/wholistic way. They say that is the flaw in the diamond that makes it precious, and  even though sometimes I still I feel broken, I know I have integrity, just like the seashell sitting on my desk.

Blessed be.