Tag Archives: shell

A Tiny Celebration of Writing

I aspire to a daily writing practice, following my thoughts where they lead, planting seeds of ideas that may produce something more at a later date, documenting life’s everyday events—both ordinary and extraordinary. Many days I fail to write, excusing myself mostly because the practice is not firmly established enough to be a habit that I no longer have to prioritize. But sometimes I get the opportunity to write in the course of my day…a treat that reminds me of my intention.

Last week as part of some work bringing National Writing Project (NWP) teachers and science museums together to consider ways they might partner to support students and teachers, I wrote. On my table a hotel coffee cup contained some small shells and a couple of hand lenses. We were invited to examine a shell, sketch, and write.

Here’s my beginning thinking—the result of taking about five minutes to sketch and write.


Layers of ridges that wrap the diameter and also extend along the length give the surface a spiky texture that I can feel as I roll the shell between my fingers.

Spiraling up from a tiny sharp tip, an opening is revealed on one side of the widest part. Although I’ve seen a version of this shell many times, I don’t know who lives there or what it is called.

I imagine a tiny snail carrying its home on its back, washed with the tides without a permanent resting place. Perhaps these creatures are the original Tiny House Nation, secure, bringing their homes—intricately assembled for efficiency and functionality—with them wherever they roam.

I’m reminded again of the importance of establishing this daily practice, even if in tiny spurts—one I regularly espouse for my students and teachers I work with. Can I spare five minutes a day for writing? Of course, everyone has five minutes somewhere. Why don’t I write for five minutes every day? There are a million excuses—among them, the fear that I will need not five minutes but an hour once I get started.

So today I’ve written another five minutes or more, moving this small piece from my notebook to my blog and adding a bit of context. I hope this is a catalyst for reestablishing that daily writing habit, even if for only five minutes a day. Today I will celebrate the tiny start and be reminded that small starts are betting than not starting at all.


Taking photos has taken me out of doors much more often and kept me alert for interesting things to photograph.  I find myself taking new routes to and from work and pulling off the road when something interesting or unusual catches my eye.

This exercise in paying attention has the side effect of feeling playful and fun and has me noticing small details that might have escaped my gaze otherwise.

Yesterday’s walk on the beach was a bit different than usual.  We had started off for a hike, but a detour changed our plans and sent us down the road to where my husband lived in college.  We found a parking place (never easy in beach communities) and headed to the beach. We met very near this place many years ago when we were both undergrads…and walked this stretch of beach on the evening we met.

As we walked we noticed the changes on the beach and in the buildings along the shore.  Temporary lifeguard towers have been replaced by permanent buildings and some modern designer homes have replaced beach cottages.

The sun was shining, but it was cool and breezy as we walked.  There were still the die-hard sun worshippers tanning in their bathing suits along with dog walkers, joggers, and other beach strollers like us.  Kids played in the water and dug holes in the sand.  Sandpipers feasted and seagulls squawked as the bombardiers–the pelicans–cruised the skies above.

And then we saw it.  Nestled between some rocks on the sand was a butterfly-shaped shell. And I had to stop, get low, and capture that unusual sight.  Perfectly shaped by the sea’s tumbling waves, the shell was smoothed with its original curvature creating the illusion of wings in flight.

butterfly shell


Butterflies are amazing creatures, light and airy, delicate and beautiful.  It’s hard to believe that they begin as caterpillars crawling on leaves and end up winging their way through the air.  Butterflies always feel like good luck to me, representing life and bringing life as they pollinate plants they visit on their travels.

This butterfly, carved by nature from a shell, seems to celebrate the long-term, complex, and happy relationship my husband and I have shared since we met that evening when we were in college.  It represents our growth, our ongoing evolution as a couple, and the freedom we feel together.  And maybe it also reminds us to be playful, to continue to explore and to learn, and to enjoy the moments.

The butterfly is resting on a shelf now…reminding us…