Or Thoughts for the Year to Come
I think if I had to choose what seashells I prefer, I would respond “The broken ones.”
I have a collection of intact and exotic shells, mostly purchased in shops, but they have a very different appeal. They are almost abstractions, so elegant in their perfection, so accomplished in their form and intricacy that they are almost cold. They inspire covetousness and competition as well; they are exemplary of the striving for the most beautiful of each sort.
The broken shells, though, are worthless to a true collector, which is certainly why I gather them. They speak so much more elegantly with their broken voices. Of waves and the tugging of the moon, and churning steep pebbled beaches. Of receding foam, and storms and slanting rain. They speak as well of worlds and of living on the edge of them, worlds that touch, but to pass between them means to be damaged, leaving a tithe for passage, a coin of nacre for the ferryman. What iridescence remains is scuffed and scratched, or miraculously preserved in a broken silhouette. They are like the broken statues from ages long fled, where the perfection is ours to imagine if we can, not ours to possess. What is missing belongs to the times-between, what we gain is the opportunity to dream. Chance flotsam in the wake of waves, things stranded in time; the pathos of things is the quintessence of their beauty.
Those broken shells are rather like my thoughts as well, so perfect in my mind, so imperfect when I have done expressing them. Drawings as well are akin to broken shells, the frontier between the imagining and the pencil & paper, while only in the transition from thought to gesture, is nevertheless difficult to cross.
Broken shells are messages of a sort, like old words no one can read, or paintings, once made with purpose now lost. I fill my pockets with them every time, as if by gathering many I could somehow understand what they have to say. They speak of impermanence, in the manner of wabi-sabi, they invite not admiration, but reflection. Their beauty is not self-contained, but shared.
I wish you many tranquil miles of shelving strands and wide seascapes for the new year, and many broken shells to pick up and turn over in your thoughts and hands. Very, very best wishes for 2012.
I hope to see you then. I will have lots of broken shells to share.