The Hermit’s Shell

Once there was a hermit who lived in a giant shell on a tiny island. And each room in her shell was connected by a central spiral staircase. As she got older, her shell grew taller with more rooms being added. And she always stayed in the newest room at the very top where she made herself a new bed out of kelp and a table and chair made from pebbles. Whenever there was a storm and the sea covered the island, her shell stayed put because it was so heavy after all those years of rooms being built. And when she got older than anyone else alive, her newest room in the shell overlooked the clouds that drifted over the sea. And if she wasn’t in her new room, she was visiting the other rooms where she felt as old or as young as when the room was built. On her last day, she spiraled out of her shell for the first time since she began building it and sat on the beach to feel the water on her toes and looked at the sunlight bouncing off the water until her last nightfall. And she laid back in the sand and saw millions of shells twinkling in the night sky before she went to sleep beside her own sparkling shell with the final thought of the greater part she had played by doing what had come so naturally.

polygon analog

Nature draws with fissures and cracks. On this desert canvas, she illustrates the complexity of her fractal design. She brings to my mind cracking into a hard boiled egg on an egg cup, or the terra cotta pottery I’ve accidentally dropped and the pieces I’ve had to collect, or the time I heard her drawing on an icy lake underfoot. She is always drawing everywhere and at once for everyone. Could we imagine an existence without such illustrations?

Clearly, Earth is not her only canvas. Where else must she be drawing right now on Earth analogues out there? What other intelligent creatures on other planets are marveling at her polygonal work right now and wondering about if other creatures like us are not doing the same?