The permanence of a handful of tiny white shells
When I see the small white canister covered in scrollwork on my shelf I know what's inside--tiny little seashells as big as my pinky fingernail. All of them are a pearly white except one.
This little canister has been around for as long as I can remember. And I've always known what it contained. It has always been so.
I remember it being one of the precious treasures found in one of my mom's dresser drawers--the jewelry and scarf drawer. This treasure, along with a solid cedar jewelry box full of sparkly baubles priceless only to a child, fascinated me. I never got in trouble going into the drawer and poking about. I usually left things the way I found them once I was done. I loved the woody-musky aroma of cedar that permeated everything in the drawer--especially the soft chiffon scarves I would wrap around my head or neck or hold up to my nose to breathe the scent in deeply. Often, I would pick up the canister and lightly shake it to hear the faint rattle of the shells inside. Very rarely, I opened it to see them. I was mostly satisfied just knowing they were there.
I don't know where the shells came from. I don't know how old they are. I just know they've always been there.
Now the canister is mine. It sits on a shelf in my studio above my head as I type this. It is a silly treasure only precious and priceless to me.
I rarely open it. I sometimes shake it lightly to hear the shells inside. I'm satisfied knowing they are still there.
Yesterday, I opened them and gently let them spill out onto my worktable so I could photograph them. One fell on the floor, and I couldn't see it right away. I searched for it frantically as if a 2 karat diamond had fallen from my grasp. I found it camouflaged in the pattern of my area rug. Whew! I placed it with the others. I took the photographs and then carefully put them all back in and screwed the top on tight.
Now I can look at the shells any time I want by looking at the photograph. Or I can reach up and gently shake the canister on the shelf above me. Either way, I'll be content knowing they are there.
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