Recently, I came across an abalone shell that called out to me. At first I looked for abstract patterns in its colorful interior. Then, a wind-blown tree came into view. There was no mistaking the tree that both stood strong and bent with the wind. It feels a bit like that now, I thought. We began to see patterns with COVID 19 that we did not understand. Now we find we are in a storm with no place to hide from the global wind. Is this tree in a storm a warning, hope for resilience in the face of threat, or perhaps both?
I have always been attracted to abalone’s iridescent interiors, but I had no idea about the range of patterns and colors that nature creates on their outsides until I started collecting these shells. Although there are commonalities among the suborders of the Haliotidae family, each individual shell is unique. And the outsides of the shells can change color based on the types of algae the abalone has been eating.
There is often a beauty to both sides of natural objects. In these days of deep divisions, I find that to be a most refreshing idea to keep in mind.
Many of us are attracted to the playful, quaint and fanciful. Children take to it naturally, of course, but you can also find it in New Yorker cartoons and a satirical print of a calligraphy class – see detail below. I think that is a good thing. A taste for whimsy is one of the more appealing human traits.
The gentle art of whimsy can provide an appreciated point of light in these dark times of pandemic. During a virtual church service, two children vigorously “played” a large organ displayed behind them in their little Zoom rectangle.
When is the last time you engaged in banter or added a whimsical touch where it could bring you and others who come across it a moment of joy?
As soon as I started the photo series, I was totally entranced. There were worlds of dazzling design in the abalone shells’ spiraling concave interiors. I might discover an area of delicate veiled dreams or bold drama. Taking closeups and seeing what the camera had captured became an addiction.
I began to sense how the shimmering designs carried the rhythm of the tides that the abalone depended upon for all their needs. There were encoded hints of whale song yearning and how our planet breathes as it dances with its companion moon.
When the abalone shell arrived, it had a crack in it. I decided to take a photo anyway. What I saw in the image was much more than I expected. We are like this, I thought. We forget the extraordinary beauty that comes right up to our cracks.
I could not stop taking close-ups as abalone arrived at my door from all over the world. The slightest shift brought dramatic color changes. In this conversation with light and mystery I sensed a deeper connection. There were so many lessons here, a spiraling out to a universe of being. Joy and grief blended with so much at risk for the abalone and for us.
The abalone are dwindling
In their rocky abodes
Along our coasts
It matters not that the
Maori and others
Understood their sacredness
With only dim sight
They sense their limitless world
Of kelp and water
Once they thrived
Breathing and mating through
Holes in their shells
Clamped down and
Holding tight was enough
As the tides found them
Now I grieve for the
They created never seeing it