Look very closely at the seashells in this top photo. Look at the patterns. Look at the colors. Look at the architecture. Look at the different species. Do you see six different types of shells? Yes, I’m sure you found LIGHTNING WHELKS, APPLE MUREXES, SHARKS EYES, LETTERED OLIVES, FIGHTING CONCHS and KITTENS PAWS, right?
Now, I’m going to show you the same photo but instead of just looking at the shells, I want you to look at it closely again, then close your eyes and imagine feeling them in your hands and rubbing them with your fingertips.
Feel the slick, smooth texture of the bullet shaped OLIVE. Feel the round ball shape with a wide opening of the SHARK’S EYE. Feel the long pointed tail of the LIGHTNING WHELK. Feel the rough, almost pine cone like texture of the MUREX. Feel the small flat shell shaped like a KITTENS PAW. Then feel the short, squat, pointy topped CONCH.
I took almost 400 of these shells to a local organization called Lighthouse Of SWFL that provides visually impaired and blind persons with the skills necessary to allow them to achieve their chosen level of independence. We had a shelling day! They wore Hawaiian shirts and sun hats to dress for their day at the beach…. that we brought to them. We made one “beach” with just sand and shells so they could feel what it’s like on the high and dry part of the beach.
It’s really amazing how differently each of these shells FEEL!
We “made” another beach that feels like we were right at the shoreline where the water meets the beach. We had sand and shells plus added water- How fun!
I can’t tell you how cool it was to be with Judy in her big flopped sun hat while feeling in the water and sand then hearing “Hey! I found an OLIVE!”.
Virginia pulled out a big LIGHTNING WHELK and knew she found a special one.
Our last part of the beach was just water and shells. Just like when you get in the water to shell, this is where you might find the bigger shells.
The day was even more special because of Kathleen. Kathleen started losing her vision 3 years ago and now she is legally blind in one eye. She explained that her other eye is like swiss cheese… some days she can see through some of the holes but other days those holes move so she can’t see much. They don’t know why or how this happened but she finally found a doctor that introduced her to Lighthouse Of SWFL where she is learning to deal with her vision loss. It turns out that I already knew Kathleen Hoover! She was the Public Relations Director for the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum for 5 years so I used to talk to her about… well of course… about shells.
She has since had to leave the museum to seek answers about her vision but she has not lost her passion for shells. She loves shelling and is a wealth of scientific information about shells. She used to write the articles in the newspapers, yall remember that? I was thrilled that I got to talk to her again and work with her to help organize our shelling day. She taught everybody so much about shells but I’m also grateful to her for teaching me so many things that will stay with me forever.
Many of the folks said it brought back so many fond memories of being on the beach as a child or being on vacation. As I always say “Once you get that sand in your flip flops, it’s hard to get it out”. It’s a happy feeling that you never forget.
I know most of you have a bowl of shells somewhere within reach, so reach in there to touch them. Feel them with your fingertips. It’s almost magic. Thank you Lighthouse SWFL for inviting me to your Lunch ‘N Learn so I could Shell ‘N Tell with you!