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Library Happenings – Close of summer brings beach desire (Sept. 2, 2015 issue)

With the children back in school and summer drawing to a close, I find myself longing for a nice quiet day at the beach. When I was little, summer just wasn’t summer without 10 days at Daytona Beach.
The years when we went to Arizona to visit my grandfather instead of going to Florida were hard on me. The July temperatures in the Sonoran Desert were brutal, and it really didn’t matter what my parents said about it being a dry heat.
There was a nice pool at the motel in Tucson and I really enjoyed our jaunt to Mexico, but I missed combing the beach for seashells. Even more than that, I positively grieved for the loss of my annual visit to the “shell shop.”
Each year I spent all of my vacation allowance on fanciful seashells I chose from the baskets that filled the souvenir shop down the street from our motel. I didn’t buy toys or T-shirts, just shells and books about shells.
I learned their names, how scarce they were and where in the world they were found. Like every other child who ever read R. Tucker Abbott and Herbert S. Zim’s “1962 Golden Nature Guide Seashells of the World,” I dreamt of acquiring a Glory-of-the-Seas Cone. At that time it was the rarest seashell on the planet, and I was captivated by its mystique.
Well, I still am fascinated by seashells, and now we have a grown-up book about the mollusks that occupy them and the ways we humans use them. “Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells” by Helen Scales explores the ongoing allure of shells.
They are the oldest gems worn by humans. In a Moroccan cave 25 miles from the Mediterranean shore, archaeologists have found dog whelks that were colored with red ochre, pierced and strung onto a cord 100,000 years ago.
An early shell collection preserved in the ruins of Pompeii was assembled with considerable care and expense from varied species native to local and distant waters. Since then, mollusks have provided food, currency, musical instruments, dyes, a gossamer golden fabric known as sea silk and toxins that are being studied for use in medicine. If you can’t make it to the beach, this book will keep you entertained.
Labor Day
The library will be closed on Monday, Sept. 7, in observance of Labor Day. As always, you may return books to our book drops which are located at the library in Erwin and Unicoi Town Hall. Please do not deposit DVDs in the book drops since they may be damaged if heavy books fall on them. We wish you all a safe and happy holiday weekend!