Useless Beauty: A canticle for the cosmos
In a niche above our hearth, alongside books and rocks and bird nests, my wife and I keep the shell of a chambered nautilus. My mother bought it for us at a flea market more than 30 years ago, thinking we might welcome a reminder of the ocean here in landlocked Indiana.
Like the shell of a lowly snail, and like our galaxy, it has a spiral shape. When the nautilus was in residence, it would have floated with the knobby core of the spiral uppermost and the curving tail pointed down. As large as a saucer and thinner than fine porcelain, our shell has been sliced down the middle in such a way as to produce two symmetrical halves, which we display side-by-side, one half showing the exterior and the other showing the interior.