Something Better!

My drummer friend, Jack Scarangella, told me that, as a kid, he was fascinated by the shape, colors and formation of rocks and sea shells. He has a collection of rocks - just a few. But ones that hold a ‘special’ meaning for him. One summer, he took a brief, but sorely needed vacation. He was out in the water, some distance from shore, diving for shells and rocks. After about forty minutes, he found a beautiful shell the size of his hand. Jumping up in the water, he threw the shell onto the beach, to keep for himself. Soon, a young boy and his mother came walking along. Finding Jack’s shell in the sand, the youngster jumped up with excitement and a big smile on his face. “No, no, no. That’s my shell”, screamed Jack from the water. But, being a little too far away, his words got lost in the wind. He saw the boy’s happiness and decided to just let it go. Jack thought, “Well, enjoy it. You got a great shell, little guy!” Jack felt he’d never find a shell anything like the one the boy walked away with. But he hoped he might anyway. He dove into the water again with his hand clutched. To his surprise, he came up from the water with this beautiful big shell. It was even better than the other one! It had colors and stars - the universe - on the face of it. Jack thought to himself, “Here’s a beautiful gift.” This little story has a lot of love and wisdom contained within it. The point is: if you’re willing to give up something of value to yourself, with love in your heart, life will give you something even greater. It all has to do with simply ‘surrendering’ - letting go.


Jack called me on the phone some years ago to share an experience he had. He visited a close singer friend of his in the hospital who just had an operation for cancer. She was very tired and afraid. He spent some time with her at her bedside. It was getting dark outside and he was going to leave soon. She asked him to sing a song. She just wanted something ‘simple’ to ease her mind and make her feel better. He didn’t know what to sing - he wasn’t a singer. To his amazement, he started singing “Shells” – one of my songs that he and I used to play (on piano and drums) at my house in Katonah, New York. It was the first of a number of songs (mostly melodies without lyrics) I began writing after leaving BS&T. It’s a simple, child-like song in 6/8 time with a bit of a sea chantey melody, inspired by a book with photos of colorful sea shells I bought in Mill Valley, California. The melody and lyrics flowed out from me quickly while looking through the book one afternoon. The first verse goes like this:

Shells all kinds ‘a shells in the ocean
Multitudes of shells to see......and
People drawin' from the sea......the
Beauty that shells have shown to me

As Jack sang the song to her, as a kind of lullaby, she had a heavenly smile on her face. It soothed her and took her to a nice place...