Whelk versus iPhone

How a husband and wife collect different delights on the same island

Still life of lightning whelks and iPhone 12 Pro Max on granite. Sanibel FL 2021 (This is a new, corrected photo. Original had the wrong shells in it.)

This morning on the lanai, my wife joined me to record today’s episode of Morning Journal, my flash briefing for Alexa. An epiphany ensued.

My idea had been to talk about iPhones. I have been tutoring Darlene and her sister Deb on how to use their new iPhone 12 Pros and wondered what my wife liked most about hers.

“I can’t say either of us enjoy it,” she said of the tutorials. She couldn’t remember anything she had learned so far.

What Darlene does enjoy is looking for shells.

As we prepare for our return to New England, she is deciding which of the lightning whelk and sea urchin shells she will take with us. She plans to arrange them in a glass base for a lamp, to remind us of our winter on Sanibel.

“Every day is a treasure hunt,” she told me. “I love treasure hunts. I love Easter egg hunts. And every day is like that. I go out, and I walk. Then I find some piece of magic, and I bring it home.”

This is why I love talking with Darlene for The Kindle Chronicles or Morning Journal. With a microphone recording us, we speak and listen differently—more mindfully, perhaps. I’ve watched her on the beach and never realized she was on treasure hunts, like a girl looking for colored eggs.

On the lanai, I was so inspired that I briefly considered joining her on this morning’s bike ride to the Gulf side of the island for a walk on the beach. Then I remembered I haven’t posted to Len’s Newsletter in almost a week. Or visited a Clubhouse room in a few days. So much to do right here on Sand Castle Road!

“My delights are not your delights,” Darlene observed. “You like to talk about iPhones,” she said, laughing her beautiful, bell-like laugh. “The fact that you’d even want to talk about the iPhone I find just hilarious.”

Let’s say that a guy who had not just meditated for 15 minutes might have taken offense. I mindfully pressed ahead, recalling how much fun we’ve had learning about the iPhone.

“We have started learning the iPhone,” Darlene said. “We can’t remember anything you teach us, but we are working at it. But I can’t say that either of us enjoys it.”

Now I’m laughing as I listen to the recording.

Here is the epiphany, in her own words:

“My delights are not your delights.”

Darlene and Deb are at the beach now, looking for shells. I am at my MacBook Pro, looking for a piece of magic to bring home from the Internet.

A Bennington-MFA friend has started a Substack newsletter titled Betsy Being Betsy. Her emailed draft of a post earlier this morning put me into treasure-seeking mode: What is this newsletter platform like? What can someone express on it that’s new and different? Can I turn it into a lamp?

The problem is, I think—and I’m feeling my way here—that when something delights me, like the latest iPhone or the newest social media thing—I can’t even imagine someone not being as fascinated by it as I am. When that delusion is corrected, it’s embarrassing. Kinda makes me want to crawl into my shell.

But what if one person’s delight simply exists in its own world—full of life and possibilities for them? It’s nice if someone from another planet expresses curiosity or appreciation, but it’s not necessary. Some day I may visit their world and have a look around. I will try not to break anything and to return knowing more about the way things are.

I might even bring home a whelk.