The Useful Operculum

Yes, I know that the SEO for this post will be terrible. Who searches for “operculum” anyway? Who even knows what an “operculum” is? One of the joys of keeping a creative blog is knowing that there are ups and downs of attention spans, keywords, ideas, and results. Some will work better than others. Let’s hope this one works for you.

An operculum is a door. It can occur in plants or animals, but the one I’m talking about is the door that closes the opening in mollusks–snails.

The snail builds it for protection. When threatened, the mollusk retreats deep into the spiral of its shell, and closes the world out with the operculum.

The beauty of that spiral, the perfect geometry of the sea creature reminds me that utility does not have to be ugly just because it is practical. Even practical  objects should have a beauty that speak to its use. The operculum is smooth and polished, perfect enough to be a talisman, let alone a door.

The necessity of doors is important, too. For the mollusk, the operculum is protection from being eaten, from being forced from its shell.  From having sand heaved into the shell in a riptide.

I’m often jealous of that mollusk. I’d like to have a beautiful barrier against pain and abuse, against people who think that privacy is a sign of anger and unwillingness to mingle. Everything, from mollusk to human, needs time to be alone, to hear the soundless sky settling onto the earth. To hear the seed of an idea roll over and start to sprout. To weigh choices and decisions, consequences and risk. Because creativity is always about risk, and being certain is not.

The operculum is not a guard against the unknown, but a choice to increase growth. We all need an operculum.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also a creativity coach, to help people put their creativity to work in their lives. She is writing a book about The Invisible, Visible World.