The Ugliest Shell in the Sea
Shaped by millions of years of rollicking seas,
Oh why oh why must this fate befall poor little ol’ me,
This entity called loneliness shrouds happy spirits that could be,
How long must I strive for simple happiness that does nothing but tease?
October 5th, 2003-
Now I am fully aware that I am not the prettiest shell in the sea. There are no allusions here- my outer shell is a rather dull taupe color with a slight coral hue, rough to the touch, with several spikes sticking out on one side. My inside however, is surprisingly smooth, a pretty pink color, and pleasing to the touch. How do the humans put it… some things might look ugly on the outside, but are actually quite beautiful on the inside? Oh those humans and all their inspirational phrases and quotes- they are so entertaining to us sea folk. Mankind has become somewhat of a laughingstock among ocean dwellers for centuries now. Many sea creatures delight in poking fun at humans, who are so very easy to tease as they are touchingly naive, yet I try to look past most of their flaws and see the good in them. At least humans are able to experience life on land, something I have yearned to do for quite some time now. I was advised to record my feelings on this tablet by my doctor to deal with all this sadness I experience every day- hopefully it helps. I can’t tell if it is yet but hey, it’s worth a shot.
You see, the life of a shell is a simple one. Day after day, we travel all over the sea through tides and currents, washing ashore during low tide, tossed back into the sea at high tide. Many shells love the freedom we are afforded, being shells and all, and lavish in tales of adventure and intrigue with each other while attempting to catch a shell color change on lazy, low tide days in the sun. If we shells are not lounging on beaches during low tide, we’re traveling the oceans’ currents, sometimes for months on end, gossiping and flirting with each other along the way. A shell’s life is spiced up in an instant however in one of two ways. Either we become the companion and home to a sea hermit crab or other small creature in need of a rough exterior, or we are taken by a human, typically a child, from the beach during low tide, usually never to return to the sea again. All I have ever wanted is this sought after change of pace I speak of. At nearly five million years old, one can imagine how life in the sea can get to be quite monotonous. I have traveled all over the ocean and back again countless times in my existence- I’ve seen it all. Younger shells still relish in the constant excitement of current travel, yet such travel is routine to us older shells. For me, the days run into each other without much variation. I often lose track of the days, and have been surprised to find myself on beaches coupled with light snowfall on more than one occasion- but it had only seemed like summer a day ago…or was that actually a few months ago? Why do I even bother anymore…
October 21st, 2003-
Many of the other shells are aware that I long for life beyond the sea, and they laugh at me for it. The younger shells delight in sniggering at me behind my back, and I’m pretty sure there are a couple songs and poems about my pathetic dream. I recently learned that I have been dubbed, by these young rascals, “The Ugliest Shell in the Sea” which hurts. Yet I have come to embrace the nickname, for it’s basically true. Being one of the oldest shells in the sea, rumors and nicknames are inevitable. After all, at around 2-3 million years of age (at the latest) most shells have found a companion or a home on land. Those shells however, are typically the pretty ones. I can’t even count the number of times I have been picked up by a human child on the beach, only to have my hopes dashed once I am tossed carelessly back into my sand dungeon in favor of a prettier, shinier shell across the beach. I have been scrutinized a myriad of times by prospective hermit crabs on the hunt for new shells, yet time and time again, I have always been passed up in favor of a “better” shell. I am beginning to believe that nobody will ever want me.
Recklessly tossed around Poseidon’s tumultuous sea,
Discarded by human children with a precise catapult of the knee,
Never having been the shell desired by all and deemed worthy and pretty,
I dream wistful dreams that never shalt be,
For how can one hope and see life as a jolly full cup of tea,
Chanting your nickname with glee, you’re deemed, The Ugliest Shell of the Sea,
Will nobody ever settle for this lonely, decrepit, discarded shell that is me?
November 5th, 2003-
Had another breakdown today. I don’t know how much longer I can take life in the sea. Maybe the next time low tide hits I’ll just bury myself in the sand…at least then I won’t ever have to deal with all the insults and the teasing. I just want someone to love me- is that so hard to ask?
November 11th, 2003-
Word around the reef is that we’re beaching it tomorrow off the coast of Australia. The last time I was here I almost found a home…until the child caught sight of a beautiful conch shell about twenty feet from me. Yeah, you know how that goes. I swear I’ve struck out so many times, I can’t believe I haven’t just been kicked out of the game. I don’t want to play anymore.
It was a calm morning off the coast of Australia, date- November 12th 2003. Fourteen year old Ryder Lones was eager to start his day off early before school, which usually entailed a brisk jog down the beach before his mom cooked breakfast. “Ugh, I should probably study for that math test today…” Ryder pondered while jumping through his running clothes. Something told him however to just hit the beach first anyway, “eh, I won’t be long, what’s ten minutes of studying gonna do for me anyway?” He jogged five minutes down to the beach, then proceeded to continue his morning jog down the long strip of damp white sand. The sun was slowly rising over the horizon, bathing the morning sky with a brilliant palette of pink and orange hues. It was low tide, and Ryder kept a steady pace down the strip, inhaling the salty, fresh air deeply with each powerful stride. All of a sudden, Ryder felt his foot catch on a protruding object in the sand, and the boy violently somersaulted over himself. Surprisingly, the boy wasn’t injured. After collecting himself, Ryder angrily looked around for the culprit, who would surely pay. Yet his anger instantly washed away once he caught sight of the guilty party. Ten feet away lay a medium sized shell. It had been yanked from it’s place in the sand from the whole ordeal, and now lay discarded, face down in the sand. Approaching the shell, Ryder couldn’t help but feel sorry it. It sounds silly, yet somehow, the boy just knew. The way the shell shyly lay in the sand, off to one side…seemed almost apologetic. This was a shell that had been rejected often in its past, and was more wounded by the event than Ryder himself. One of the shell’s spiky attachments appeared to have been snapped in the accident as well. Looking around the beach, Ryder noted that while all the other shells nestled together in clusters, this shell had deliberately set itself apart from the others. Maybe he wasn’t accepted by them? Perhaps shells were communities almost like people, and this particular shell just didn’t fit in? Ryder marveled at his mind for a moment- he sounded downright crazy. Crazy or not, Ryder knew what he had to do. Even though he lived right on the beach, Ryder had never personally owned a shell. It just wasn’t his thing. But in that moment he knew why- fate had been waiting for this shell. This would be his first and last shell. Ryder carefully picked up the shell and carried it home, where he placed it on a small piece of velvet fabric in a special place on his bookshelf. The shell remained there for years until Ryder went off to college, when the shell transitioned from his bookshelf to his dorm room desk. For years, Ryder kept his shell, until one day he passed the shell along to his thirteen year old son. “I just get a good feeling, every time I look at him” Ryder would tell his wife, who jokingly called him crazy every time he referred to his theory of the shell’s former lonely existence, “I just knew that there was a reason I tripped over it yet wasn’t injured, in fact I injured it. He looked…sad when I saw him lying there. Call me crazy, but to this day when I look at him, I can feel his energy, thanking me for picking him up that fateful morning years ago.”
December 13th, 2013-
Words cannot describe the feeling of being rescued. The feeling of finally, after millions of years, having a true place to call home. I am now stationary- I no longer have to deal with traveling the currents day in and day out. I have watched my owner and rescuer grow up. Been through each birthday and christmas, hardship and success. I always knew I admired humans for a reason. The life of a shell is simple and happy for the most part- the lives of humans are like a roller coaster, yet they are a tenacious people, and always pull through in the end, and for that, I respect them immensely. I have learned more from humans in the decade that I’ve lived on land then the five million I spent at sea. The morning I was finally rescued is the morning I will forever refer to as the day I died and was reborn. You see, I had actually decided to essentially end my existence. I was going to burrow deep into the sand so that I could never get out, and just suspend myself there until the pressure from all the weight above me crushed my body. Yet this attempt was thwarted in a flash, and instantly I found myself in the palm of none other than a young boy, and this time, I was not discarded for another. I will never forget the look we shared- although we could not communicate with words, we communicated with feeling. He sensed my loneliness and despair, this I am sure of. He promised that day to never throw me away, and to keep me forever, and I know he will. I’ll never know if my nickname was ever changed in the aftermath of my rescue- who knows, there could be a bedtime tale out there in the sea about me. Yet for the first time in my life, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I am wanted. I am treasured. I have a place to call home, and never again will I have to endure being tossed around the waves like a dog’s chew toy during hurricane season. I had to wait five million years to find my home, yet I would gladly do five million more in that watery prison if I knew I would eventually be rescued by Ryder. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
“Have you ever heard the tale of the Ugliest Shell of the Sea?”
“Why no daddy, I haven’t. What’s it about?”
“Well sweetie, come on over and I’ll tell you. It’s quite a nice story indeed.”
There once lived a shell,
Who was lonely and hurt,
Having already seen every swell,
Once even almost sewn to a mermaid’s shirt,
His melancholy was impossible to expel,
So long as he was forced in the depths of the sea to dwell.
One day some concerned older shells called upon the King,
Voiced concern over this poor old shell’s unwanted lingering,
There had to be some solution Poseidon could magically swing,
To pitifully end this pathetic shell’s suffering.
Poseidon heartily laughed when they were done,
For he was Poseidon, the supreme ruler of the sea,
Signaling royal bells throughout the kingdom to be rung,
Poseidon approached the problem with glee,
Ordered magical fibers to be immediately spun,
Not a soul could solve problems in the sea better than he.
Two shoelaces were spun with the thread that day,
The king commanded the wind to ever so gently replace,
Those magical laces in the sneakers whose owner would soon pay,
Sacrifices must be made for such an extreme case.
That morning as the boy went for a quick run,
His magical laces tied themselves into a knot,
Timed perfectly so the boy fell over the Ugliest Shell and it was done,
The boy brought the shell home that fateful day without a second thought,
The Ugliest Shell’s spirits were lifted higher than the sun,
He now happily lives the life of companionship he so tirelessly once sought,
So whenever you feel low and that monotony and loneliness have finally won,
That Fate pulled a dead man’s hand against you and your demise is bought,
Remember the Ugliest Shell whose life has only now begun,
His former loneliness now all but forgot,
He embraces his flaws of which he now is one,
His former enemy called Loneliness fruitlessly searches, yet can find him not.