The scallop shell

The scallop shell is the symbol of St James’ Way (the Camino), not only a way for pilgrims to self-identify when they attach a shell to their pack, but used as a symbol to mark guideposts and directional arrows along all 12+ routes. In the Middle Ages, the custom was to wear a scallop shell once they complete the pilgrimage, but you know us modern folk…we can’t wait and attach them as we start.

From what I understand, most pilgrims buy a shell near the beginning of their journey. Being a Seattle girl and a total dork, I decided I had to bring a scallop shell from home, a real talisman from my home city. We don’t eat a lot of scallops around here but we do grow them. It made sense to go to the local fish market to get a Washington coast scallop shell, be authentic. Go one step beyond. Those who know me know how I get.

So last Friday I went to Central Market near my house. Their scallops come in pre-shucked. No shells.

Then I went to the huge Asian supermarket near my house. Their scallops come in pre-shucked. No shells.

Pike Place Market! Of course, and what a better way to say goodbye to my city for two months.

First fish market. Their scallops come in pre-shucked. No shells.

Second fish market. Their scallops come in pre-shucked. No shells.

Third time was the charm! City Fish had raw scallops on the half shell for $2 each. Score!

Except the fishmonger just grabbed one and wouldn’t let me pick it out. As I handed him $2 he also told me the shells are from somewhere in South America and not local. Dude.

That’s fine because at least I have a shell purchased in Seattle.

Except its edge is broken and crumbly, and it was too fragile to drill a hole in.


When I was on the back porch last night spraying the last of my gear with bed bug-killing permithren, I saw it. Of course. They were right under my nose the whole time.

These tacky things that have been hanging on our back porch for the last two years.

These shells may not be from the Washington coast, but as tacky as they are, they clearly are a token of home. They have borne witness to life in the Donohue Farmhouse: the BBQs, gatherings, barking dogs (including sweet Seamus), the tools/gardening stuff/pirate props…

So this guy is going with me, and when he and I return at the end of May, he will go right back on his string. His rightful place.

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