Vitality Lifeline chose the chambered nautilus as its symbol: This sea-faring creature’s physical beauty, natural perfection and striking correspondence with the human female form and spirit are too great not to celebrate. Over 500 million years old, the chambered nautilus is both mysterious and ancient, adapting to a permanent external shell early in its evolution.
The shell, lined with smooth and lustrous pearl nacre, speaks to femininity, beauty and secrets, inside and private. The nautilus starts life as spiral form itself, with three or four tiny chambers growing and evolving over years. New chambers are created. These “rooms” become separated by a thin wall, much as women grow, adding new wisdom while retaining what came before.
An architect friend intrigued me with her love for this pelagic wanderer: “The ancient fossil contains the geometric rule of the universe, phi, growing in the precise golden mean cycle, a symbol of life’s unfolding mysteries. Its geometry is the basis of perfect architectural proportion, indicating the visual peacefulness of the right things in their place, cyclical, smooth, beautiful and peaceful.” She shared her observation that a woman’s life and the way she lives it, resembles the female nautilus as she outgrows the smaller rooms, one by one. With each iteration, she moves into a more spacious chamber while becoming more knowledgeable and wise, having gained a greater understanding of life through experience. “As one grows, life unfolds, expands, until at a point, a new room opens to us allowing us space to fill up with new experiences and then . . once again . . .another room opens in readiness for the next chapter and the next . . .”
The beauty, femininity and survival skills of this wise creature embodies woman in all her glory as sensual, wily and mysterious: Venus via the sea! Re-invention, problem solving and renewal demanding change when change is thrust upon her. The lifelong shell housing is unique to this cephalopod, maintained, improved upon and never discarded.
Intrigued by my friend’s sophisticated revelations, I did further research and discovered the nautilus has more tentacles than any other cephalopod, up to 90. I was reminded of female tenacity and her reaching out for safety and meaning. The nautilus swims forward and backward, escaping danger as well as changing direction in seeking opportunities.
Re-invention, renewal and resilience defines the mission of the vitality lifeline.
Betsy Horn, founder, vitalitylifeline.com
Should you wish to explore further:
A poem by the late Marianne Moore to Elizabeth Bishop about the chambered nautilus:
Marianne Moore, 1887 – 1972
The paper nautilus
For authorities whose hopes are shaped by mercenaries? Writers entrapped by teatime fame and by commuters’ comforts? Not for these the paper nautilus constructs her thin glass shell. Giving her perishable souvenir of hope, a dull white outside and smooth-edged inner surface glossy as the sea, the watchful maker of it guards it day and night; she scarcely eats until the eggs are hatched. Buried eight-fold in her eight arms, for she is in a sense a devil- fish, her glass ram’shorn-cradled freight is hid but is not crushed; as Hercules, bitten by a crab loyal to the hydra, was hindered to succeed, the intensively watched eggs coming from the shell free it when they are freed,– leaving its wasp-nest flaws of white on white, and close-laid Ionic chiton-folds like the lines in the mane of a Parthenon horse, round which the arms had wound themselves as if they knew love is the only fortress strong enough to trust to.
In the course of my diverse career in communications and the arts, I have worked for organizations including Sotheby’s Parke-Bernet and magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, British Vogue, and Town and Country both editorially and as a photographer. I have lived in both New York and London and have traveled around the world, visiting places including Baghdad, Tehran, Kyoto, Karachi, New Delhi, and more. In the midst of all these professional challenges, I was or became all of those things that women are: daughter, grand-daughter, mother, wife, sister, grand-mother, and friend.
Welcome to Vitality Lifeline’s Reading Rack. Each month, we plan to review a book we find timely and think you’ll enjoy. On top of that, we’ll frequently make suggestions o other books, new and old, diverse, often eccentric and always well-written. We welcome your thoughts and input. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to contribute to the list or comment on our selections.
The Confidence Code by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman
Gut: The Inside Story by Giulia Enders
Talking to My Daughter About the Economy by Yanis Varoufakis