Dr. Harrison had opened a quahaug a moment before our arrival. it was lying in the half shell, pink-and-white and inviting, on his laboratory table, adjacent to an apparatus of moderately complex appearance. "This is the heart."Dr. Harrison said, extracting a bit of something deftly with a pair of tweezers. The muscle he showed us was smaller than the nail of a child's little finger. He placed it in a small bowl of sea water. "If this quahaug is like other quahaugs, and I presume that it is," said Dr. Harrison, "the heart will continue to beat for about two days after being removed from its parent body."
"The Heart of a Clam," New Yorker, May 26, 1951.
|Local quahogs, their hearts are now breath again.|
Clamming in the waning sunlight in February has its own pace--the hands are too cold to work quickly, no greenheads to test your reflexes. The clams will keep just fine in the cool February air.
You get what you need, put back the few that you don't, head back to the car where the asphalt feels foreign under your now bare feet as you strip off your gear, then drive back home, heater on, the clams rattling with the road's rhythms. The radio voices remind you of the world you just forgot.
In the warmth of the kitchen, your numbed muddied hands warm up, and the evanescent earthy breath of unseen creatures float into the air, the smell of the flats you just left, incongruous indoors.
I know the clams too well now--of beating hearts stilled by the boiling water heated with the methane stripped off organisms that died millions of years ago.
And tomorrow I will go back to teaching book biology, of mitochondria and DNA, to children whose breath feeds the growth of the plants on our windowsill, children who know nothing of this world that belongs to all of us.
We're teaching children about edges in a world made of spheres.