It has been my good fortune to stumble across a variety of seashells in all sorts of colors and conditions. Most curious as I can usually find them in the unlikeliest of places while on my expeditions into the far reaches of the Woodlands. Perched in the crook of a giant oak arm, hidden under morels – why, I even discovered a rather large shell in a robin’s nest! I seem to gravitate towards these hollow vessels as if they are beckoning me to release them from the confines of their muddy prison walls, silently pleading that I restore them to their once glorious beauty.
It was during my last journey in search of wild oregano that I discovered a rather unusual shell. A bright purple tip protruded from a patch of moss attracted my attention. This one was quite exotic looking compared to the others I had collected. Where you would expect to see a rhythm of horizontal bands was replaced by a series of circles and swirls in pastel shades of lavender, pink and crimson blue. Its main body was plump and hollow surround by dull spikes. What made this specimen so fascinating was what was attached at the tips.
“How curious,” I muttered to myself as I ran my fingers across one of the pods. Where the main body of the shell felt rough and hard, these were soft and spongy with a hollow end.
I retrieved a rag from my satchel and carefully wrapped and secured it before gently placing it in a glass jar. I made a quick note in my field journal and secured both items before closing the pouch. It wasn’t long before I found what I had been searching for and made my way back home.
The sweet scent of oregano waiffed into the study room as I loosened the drawstrings of the satchel. Loose threads protruded from a worn seam along with unsightly scuff marks that bore the brunt of evidence from my many adventures into the wild parts of the Woodlands. It had survived tumbles into streams, jabs from thorny bushes and unforgiving rocks. I noticed the beginning of a small hole and made a mental note to patch it up after dinner.
I gathered the leafy plant and tied a long string around the stems. I walked a few feet away and fastened the loose end to a protruding nail on a wall that hosted several other plants in different stages of preservation. I ran my hands down the floral apron cinched around my waist before returning to the prize discovery patiently waiting for me. I gently removed the stained rag and studied the peculiar looking seashell that rested in the palm of my hand. I grabbed a damp cloth from the basin and carefully wiped away bits of moss and dirt. “What are you, little guy?” I said as I intently studied every small crevice and spike that jetted out from its body. I touched the bright purple pods and was again fascinated. “And what are these for?”
I set the shell on an ornate, silver platter and took a few steps from my desk. My attention was drawn to a tall wall lined with hundreds of books. Hmmmm….I ran my finger across the ridge of several spines, reading the titles until one particular book caught my eye. The Fisherman’s Nautical Guide to Shellfish. “Aha! That ought to do it.”
I set the book down next to the mysterious object on my desk. A cup of tea was in order before what may inevitably end up becoming a very, long evening. A few minutes later, I had settled myself into my favorite comfy chair with a steaming cup of cinnamon carrot tea. I picked up the book and began thumbing through what must have been hundreds of pictures of crabs, clams, mussels, oysters and squids. Not one remotely resembled what sat in front of me. I let out a long sigh and opened up a drawer from the side table. I removed a magnifying glass and brought it up next to the shell.
Tiny particles of silver, gold and turquoise sparkled as it caught the soft glow of candlelight from a beeswax candle cradled in a metal arm attached to a mechanical desk lamp. A gift from my dear friend, Prof. MacCrumb, which I had enjoyed for both its practicality and thoughtfulness. Suddenly, my gaze was drawn to a faint marking barely visible next to a spongy pod. Etched into the seashell was what appeared to be a single letter.
“M?” I said with an arched brow. My eyes widened as I began to notice other letters carved on several spikes. I grabbed a pencil and pad of paper and scribbled down various markings.
After a few minutes, I sat puzzled looking at the riddle of letters that met my gaze.
D M M R E I A
I must say, it is getting rather late. I wanted to share my discovery with you before any details from the day’s events fluttered away. Nevertheless, exciting news. Indeed! I shall post updates as I discover more about this exquisite shell.