Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A tiny white snail shell as a sarcophagus on a carpet of fallen dry Ashe juniper needles

with 31 comments

Allen Park; December 17, 2021.

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Have you ever noticed that some people have appropriate names while others have ironic names? An example in the “appropriate” category was a United States district judge for the Eastern District of Texas named William Wayne Justice.

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) provides two examples in the “ironic” category. The current police commissioner there is named Danielle Outlaw. But what’s in a name? The double irony is that while Danielle Outlaw is actually trying to enforce laws and protect the citizens of Philadelphia, the real outlaw in Philadelphia’s justice system is the district attorney, Larry Krasner. His family name ultimately goes back to a Slavic word that means ‘beautiful,’ yet he is anything but beautiful in his stubbornly ideological refusal to prosecute many criminals. Unfortunately the new district attorney in Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, began bragging on day one of his term that he also will refuse to prosecute many crimes and will downgrade others from felonies to misdemeanors. You can read even more about that if you wish.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2022 at 4:31 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Well seen with some imagination.

    Your name is ironic, don’t you think?

    Steve Gingold

    January 9, 2022 at 4:49 AM

    • My last name could be ironic. Or maybe not always. I used to have black hair, and plenty of it, in the early 1970s. One time in those years I was driving a not very reliable car (a Simca, and coincidentally white) heading south through Georgia when it broke down near the little town of Lavonia. The car got towed to a repair shop in the town, and the owner found out that the alternator had broken and he’d have to order one from Atlanta. He also said I could sleep overnight in the repair shop, which was a good thing, ’cause I didn’t have much money. At one point, I don’t remember when in the sequence of events, I went out walking. Where I ended up was apparently a black part of town, and I guess white people weren’t that common a sight there. I remember that a black man walking toward me looked surprised to see me there, and he asked me: “Is you black?” Apparently I could’ve passed in those days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2022 at 5:58 AM

  2. That shell looks as if it should have a tiny mummy inside!

    Ann Mackay

    January 9, 2022 at 7:30 AM

  3. First human to catch bird flu in the UK is called Alan Gosling. You just could not make this up!


    January 9, 2022 at 7:55 AM

  4. That would make a very elegant sarcophagus, much better than putting people in run-of-the-mill, so-socrates.

    Robert Parker

    January 9, 2022 at 8:50 AM

    • You made me wonder about the origin of run-of-the-mill, so I checked the Online Etymology Dictionary:

      “ordinary, unspectacular,” 1922, a figurative use of a commercial phrase attested by 1909 in reference to material yielded by a mill, etc., before sorting for quality (compare common run “usual, ordinary type,” from 1712). From run (n.) on the notion of “a continuous stretch of grinding.”

      So this year coincidentally marks the hundredth anniversary of the phrase’s figurative use. And did you know that sarcophagus comes from the Greek words for ‘flesh’ and ‘eat’?


      Notice how the first component is the same as in sarcasm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2022 at 9:18 AM

  5. What an astounding discovery and interpretation, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    January 9, 2022 at 9:22 AM

    • I’ll take credit for the interpretation (thanks) but not for finding small white snails of this type, which are common in the Austin area, along with various other kinds of ground snails.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2022 at 9:30 AM

  6. The contrast in textures is as interesting as the color contrast. When I see a shell like this, I think of the seashore, since that’s where I more commonly find conical shells. When I visited the burned prairie in Brazoria, there were thousands of tiny, round white snail shells, and all the snails that climb my walls or the Galveston grave stones are round. The first conical shell I found was at Cost, alongside the road leading to the monument there.

    Your comment about ‘passing’ brought to mind one of my favorite amusing fantasies: writing a book titled I Passed for Blue Collar.


    January 9, 2022 at 10:26 AM

    • I grew up on Long Island thinking of shells as a seashore thing. Not surprising if you live 25 minutes from the ocean. Texas changed my perception, at least after I began wandering the land here in the new millennium. The round shells on the land here outnumber the long conical ones, but those are are still pretty common.

      We’ll be on the alert to see if you someday write your book about passing. I’m also reminded of the last line in a poem by Yeats:


      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2022 at 11:38 AM

  7. Remember when Bernie made off with all that money?
    I always thought that Roe vs. Wade sounded funny, although not ironic. It sounds like two options for getting across a shallow creek.


    January 9, 2022 at 12:58 PM

    • Yes, and I was among the people who made the play on words about Madoff who made off with people’s money. I wasn’t as clever as you, though, to think about someone who could row or wade across a river.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2022 at 6:29 PM

      • Clever or silly? I know that one should not joke about such things, but those names seemed funny to me.


        January 9, 2022 at 6:43 PM

  8. It does look like a sarcophagus. On the subject of names, I used to know many interesting examples, one of which is the famous case of the Brazilian Caio Rolando da Rocha, who fell off a cliff.

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 9, 2022 at 5:26 PM

    • That’s a good one. I’ve never heard of Caio Rolando da Rocha. I looked online and assume he’s the person described as an “Alpinista.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2022 at 6:35 PM

      • Caio can be translated as “I fall”; Rolando = rolling down and “da Rocha” means from the rock.

        Alessandra Chaves

        January 9, 2022 at 6:45 PM

        • It’s good that you put the translations, in case other people read through the comments.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 9, 2022 at 6:54 PM

          • It’s funny that Caio is a common fore name in Portuguese, as da Rocha is a common family name. But they rarely appear together, for obvious reasons.

            Alessandra Chaves

            January 9, 2022 at 8:55 PM

      • When I was a child, the local newspaper published a list of strange names, collected from the public health records. Caio R.da Rocha was one. And they added “and he died falling from a cliff”. I don’t know if its an urban legend but it’s a good one.

        Alessandra Chaves

        January 9, 2022 at 6:46 PM

  9. I like all the different contrasts this image has. Like the big soft banding on the shell versus the tight braiding on the needles, and of course light versus dark.

    When I shattered my wrist ice skating in my 30’s it wouldn’t stay set so I needed to find an orthopedic surgeon to put a pin in it to hold all the bones in place to heal so trolling through all the surgeons in my insurance plan I found one Dr. Butcher and went with him figuring anybody with that name going into surgery for a profession had to be fun. He was a bit dry and serious, but a great surgeon! 😀


    January 14, 2022 at 3:27 PM

    • Now that’s a great name story! Reality turning out to be better than a name would suggest is preferable to the reverse.

      I’m pleased that you appreciate the portrait, which, despite the many snail pictures I’ve done, is the first of its kind (as far as I recall).

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2022 at 5:43 PM

  10. Wonderful find and tidy background … sarcophagus is a good way to describe it!


    January 20, 2022 at 12:07 PM

    • I was happy with the notion of a sarcophagus, and I like the way you described the background as tidy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2022 at 5:30 PM

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