It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Sassafras! Horsefeathers! Fiddlesticks!
A seashell-level view out towards the ocean.

What do you see when you look at the photo above?

If we wanted or needed to take a simply descriptive route, we could say it’s an image of an accumulation of shells in the wrack line at a beach near my home, taken with the camera lens aimed straight out at the sea, with late-afternoon sun glinting off the waves in the background.

How does the photo make you feel, assuming it evokes any emotional response at all?

Overall, I find the image aesthetically pleasing and perhaps you feel likewise. Giving the shells in the foreground a bit more thought, however, complicates things.

Since each of those shells was once the home of an animal, now obviously deceased, the image assumes a slightly morbid character. The large shell standing hinge-skyward in the center of the photo delivers a double whammy of ghastliness. That sort of clam, like the others whose shells have washed together there, spent most of its life buried in sediment, where barnacles (filter feeders of the intertidal zone) couldn’t have attached to its valves and built out their homes. We can safely infer, then, that those acorn barnacles must have settled and secreted their multi-calcareous-plated homes once the clam itself had already perished.

Now, if one looks closely at the barnacles themselves, it’s evident that all of their “lids” (their operculi) are missing. Since adult barnacles of this type are sessile, it’s fairly certain that that the creatures which colonized the exterior of that clam shell have, like the clam, shuffled off this mortal coil.