The shell was a thing of beauty, held in the hand of my beautiful daughter. She found it at the base of a tree, after stopping next to this big sycamore and insisting I take her picture in the silver-white light of a mild winter Saturday afternoon. The shell surprised and delighted us, as it made up for the lack of river glass and freshwater clam shells we had set out to collect.
The sandbar I had hoped to mine for glass bits and clam shells was no longer to be found. The river was running a little higher than the day I had first seen it. Perhaps the recent storms had even washed it completely away. My daughter was disappointed. In the morning, she had been talking about collecting river glass after breakfast and through lunch. So we trekked on, looking for other natural delights.
Then there was the shell in the picture. She 'oohed' and 'ahhed' over her discovery. I took joy in seeing hers. She bubbled with excitement as she brought the shell over to share. I had never seen such a thing on all my walks along the river. This was something new and fascinating. It helped make a good walk better. She happily wanted to carry it in her pocket, beaming as she told me she couldn't wait to show it to her mother.
On the return leg of our walk, we stopped at one of the small tunnels under the railroad tracks, through which rushed a brisk, cold stream. It makes it way through the tunnel and spills out into a little pool before running into the river. There were stones and moss. Her whim dictated that we spend some time lobbing small rocks into the water, listening to the splashes and plunks. She seemed particularly amused by the wet plop of stones into the thick beds of underwater moss or algae.
She found a rock she wanted to keep. It sparkled. I mentioned it probably contained mica. She wanted to know what mica meant. This led to a discussion of rocks and minerals, and the difference between a geologist and a mycologist. It was she who gravely informed me that the latter was someone who studies mushrooms and fungi. I was amused and proud that she even knew what the word meant.
We walked back to the car, in that way peculiar to kids which combines an amble and an eddy. She wrote her name in the dirt with the rock. I contemplated the beauty of my legacy, and the shell in her dainty hand. The sun, the river, my lovely daughter enchanted me. In a nacreous whorl the size of a cherry, I saw my place in this universe: to breathe, to be content, to know love.