Monday, July 1, 2013

Left-handed Whelks

In Mary Oliver's Blue Pastures she talks about finding a left-handed whelk among the shards, lost fishing line, and plastic bottles at Herring Cove on Cape Cod. I was surprised, as I didn't know whelks had a dominant hand, or even a hand at all. After a bit of Wikipedia exploration, I found that these sea snails, also called lightening whelks, open to the left rather than the right. They can be as long as 15" and have been around for 60 million years. Whether for their lengthy history or their left-handedness, they have been named the state shell of Texas.

This set me to wondering why being different can be a cause for honor in one instance and exile in another, left handedness, itself, being one example. The original meaning of the word "sinister" was left-handed, yet today most Major League Baseball managers prize a good "Southpaw" pitcher.

Texas has honored this lowly snail because it is unique, yet it continues to exclude persons who love someone of the same gender from the institution of marriage. Now that sounds sinister to me.

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