Spiral shells along the mindshore–solitary thoughts on Varca beach

Stumbling along on Varca beach in the morning, about 7 am, I realize that my dress is inside out. Earlier in the morning, drinking my coffee, I noticed that the pockets were hanging out, but had absentmindedly pushed them back in. Now, I comfort myself that the sundress is black, in a dye so runny that the rinse water stains the floor during the wash. The label is probably dyed by now; anyway, I’ve knotted the dress up on one side, and other side I’ve pinned up with a nappy pin. Surprisingly, this early, the beach not empty: beach walkers and joggers, wave paddlers and wallowers move by.

Sunday today, so perhaps the weekend tourists are getting in their fill of the sea before the sun beats down.  Only mid March, but the heat during the day prevents any strenuous physical activity. We Indians, phobic about the sun’s effect on our skins, are the most visible on the beach. Foreigners tend to get here after 8 am, wanting to take in the heat. Some turn a boiled red through the days, some a glorious golden brown, others a kind of in between brown-red.

Along the far horizon, laid out in a line, fishing boats dot the sea: they are further out today as the tide is coming in.  Only one lonely catamaran, a contraption of two huge logs bound together, rides into shore. Its sole fisherman, in baggy black trunks, poles through the breakers, and, at the last he has to get down and push it into the sand. Watching him, I look to see where he has placed his catch on those two logs, but all I can find is a plastic bundle. He must have wrapped the fish up so they wouldn’t fall back into the waves. Curiously, as the tide laps in, the sea remains calm, the breakers that ride in with crests’ foaming are still gentle. Behind my back, the sun rises behind a fringe of eucalyptus trees. The sea is red gold, a color that invokes an atmosphere of legend.

If reality and the physical world exist, they must exist hand in hand with the legendary, a mystical otherworld where knowledge is built on the miraculous. I ask myself if belief, or faith, functions in that world just as rigorous analytic thought functions here. Other minds, other perceptions–agreeing with me, the tide throws up an orangey brown spiral shell at my feet. The shell comes with a tiny blob still clinging on.
spiral shell  When I try later to identify the shells through Google,

I come upon Ivars Petersen’s article on sea shell spirals.  Describing the nautilus shell (not this orangey elongated shell), he writes:

the growth process yields an elegant spiral structure, visible when the shell is sliced to reveal the individual chambers. Many accounts describe this pattern as a logarithmic (or equiangular) spiral and link it to a number known as the golden ratio….Starting with the observation that shell spirals are logarithmic spirals, many people automatically assume that, because the golden ratio can be used to draw a logarithmic spiral, all shell spirals are related to the golden ratio, when, in fact, they are not. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/6030/description/Sea_Shell_Spirals


Are spirals magical or not? Does it matter if all spirals confirm or not to the golden ratio, or the Fibonacci sequence (popularized by Dan Brown)? Can magic or miracles ever be caught in a net of scientific proof?  The shells lie in the black tidal sand at my feet, some sections of the shore are shell studded, and some parts of the sand are bare. I find occasional small starfish, and big, glossy, black mussel shells. Pelecypods, or bivalves, I assume.

Caught though I am in reverie, a sharply trilled, “Good Morning”, shocks me into polite response even before I raise my head. When I look up, I see a sari clad, plump worker woman, hair neatly caught in a bun and oiled. She smiles cheerily at me, and strides on. As I watch, I see that she wishes nobody other than me. Inspired by her stride, I move faster, limp determinedly on, pushing my legs through the water. Every so often I move deeper into the sea, and let the salt water wash over my swollen knees. My body’s deterioration seems part of some process where my physical self and mind move together: as the body slows down, the mind must seek an equilibrium. As long as possible, I will stave off surgery that refashions my aging body and fixes me up with ‘new knees’. No, I am not against science, or progress, or rational thought, I just need to believe that these are not the only ways that humans can live.

Heeding those aching legs and creaky knees, in the meantime, I look for a sandy ledge thrown up by the tide in order to lever myself down on the sand and do a few stretches. I sit awhile, looking at the horizon and the near breakers. A black bird, maybe a crow, flies high overhead, heading out over the waves and into the open seas. I watch until it is a speck in the sky and a gull distracts me. Where did it go, I wonder, did it head out to the fishing boats on the horizon in hopes of a stray catch off their decks? The crow’s solitary flight triggers the memory of other flights. I remember butterflies fluttering alongside the breakers, seemingly out of place, far from any vegetation. These butterflies are huge, warmly red, or red and black, almost minute birds. Remembrance prompts their arrival, a red butterfly hovers now above the waves, and I realize they are always solitary beings, never in pairs.

Movement along the shore attracts me, though I sit with legs half buried in the sand. I stare bemused at the lone jogger: the woman now has her sari hiked up, and jogs plumply along. As I smile at her in wonderment, she grins back. I notice that she even has a black thread tied about her ankle (usually part of some Hindu ritual), and sports the red dot on her forehead. Joy seizes me. The spontaneity of our camaraderie is miraculous, two beings who are joined for a moment in their eccentricity. Yes, yes, I believe in an anarchic world, a process where Generation-Organization-Destruction invokes the universe. And that particular phrase, or definition, G-O-D, is courtesy of A magical Being, Person, Human, Sage, and my very own Merlin.