Tropical Storm Andrea hit Manasota Key last week, and as named storms go, she was noisy and a bit persistent, but aside from tearing a screen and relocating a couple of deck chairs, Andrea mainly served as nature’s entertainment for our artists in residence.
For us, Andrea served another purpose. This is the time of year when our National Advisory Committee chooses the artists they want to invite for a residency. They give us the names and we send the invitations, which the artists aren’t expecting, always with a single, perfect shell from our beach, which they really aren’t expecting.
Part of my job is to scour the beach for those shells. I know, life is tough.
Lately the shells have been scarce, and the perfect ones that fit into our clear round box, even more so. But the day after Andrea hit – Shellapalooza!! Right in front of the Hermitage. At lunch time I threw off my sandals, grabbed my beach pail and hit the beach. Then I got to “work” (Hey it’s an assignment) and started sifting through the layers to find as many perfect shells as I could.
After a few years, I’ve gotten pretty good at sizing up the shells but I bring a sample box with me to make sure they fit. From the looks I get, I can tell my fellow shell seekers think it’s a bit odd that I make my finds pass a test before I toss them in my pail.
I left the beach after, well I’m not sure how long I was there, with about 60 “artist shells” and one extra cool, “I should keep it for myself but I won’t” shell.
Usually I decide where the shells end up since I put the mailing together. In order to make the process more entertaining, I’ll say, choose a more interesting shell to send to a writer in the Midwest because, I figure they don’t get to see that many (until they come here of course). If I notice on an artist’s website that they use a lot of color, I’ll pop them a more colorful shell. And sometimes I just shut my eyes and leave it up to shell destiny.
So, if you’re reading this and you get a shell in the mail in the next, let’s say 2-4 weeks, or if you are a Hermitage Fellow and still have your perfect shell in the box (and I hope you do), now you know how it got there. And if you are on this year’s list of Fellows and your name happens to be Andrea, have I got a shell for you!