As a collector of seashells, I’ve always looked for the ideal specimen while walking along the shore: a flawless shell that’s a prime example of its species. Strong waves and stones often damage delicate shells and wear them down so that many of the ridges are worn and surfaces cracked by the time they wash up on the beach. Yet, Rainbow Haven beach has offered up perfect moon shells and dogwhelks over the years, and I’ve found some beautiful urchins on the nearby shores of Silver Sands.
A couple of years ago, my friend Ruth brought me some shells from a trip she made back home to the south shore of Nova Scotia. Although she included some perfect specimens, some worn shells were also part of the collection that she had beautifully arranged in a large glass jar. When I decided to draw them one day, it was the worn shells that seemed most interesting. One shell in particular was just a skeleton of its former self , yet it proved to be the most appealing subject of all. It was one that I did not quickly grow tired of drawing over and over again. Why?
Nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished. ~ Wabi sabi
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and can identify more with the worn out and frayed, but as time goes on, it seems that the imperfect holds greater appeal to me from an aesthetic perspective. Not just worn seashells but trees in an obvious state of decay are also more attractive, as is my gravel driveway with the grass growing up the middle.
The vines on my house continue to cover up more and more of the ‘clean white’ siding. Though they look gnarly in the winter, during the summer, their green leaves are so refreshingly beautiful… perhaps even more so, because I know they won’t last. The grass withers, the flowers fade… Would something not be lost if the grass was always green and flowers were always in full bloom? Flower beds that are ‘still in the works’ hold the promise of new plantings and arrangements in the growing season ahead. I know this long, cold winter will make the sun and sea breezes feel even warmer as I’m hanging the laundry on the clothesline this summer.
My favorite seashell is a small cockle with smoothly worn ridges that my oldest son picked up on the beach and gave me when he was a toddler over two decades ago. To me, it embodies the ephemeral wonder of children and the wearing of time and the elements on all that is alive on the planet. It also holds the promise of more days spent roaming sparkling shores in search of the perfectly imperfect specimen.