Another time when I was little my babysitter told me a story about fir cones that I will never forget. Once there was a humungous forest fire and all of the wild animals in the forest ran for their lives as they sought an escape. All of the monkeys jumped into the fir cones to seek refuge. That is why, to this day, fir cones have those little tail things sticking out.
Another natural wonder I am obsessed with are snail shells. Every time I go to the beach I collect a few more. They are everywhere, even in the ditches along the road leading to the beach. They are weathered and bleached by the sun. After spotting them on the ground, I turn them over to make sure no one's living inside, and it reminds me of turning over beach-weathered pottery shards to see if there is a pattern on the other side, and the sheer joy if there is- a mini masterpiece! Today I found an empty shell but inside was another tiny snail with its shell. It had found a home!
The shells are all very similar looking- white with brown stripes. But after bathing them in ocean water and holding them to the light, they are returned to their former natural beauty, and never fail to astonish me. I like collecting broken shards too- they reveal the inner infrastructure- also very beautiful. My snail shell collection resides in a small bowl on my desk, with a Japanese print on it, of blue and white blossoms.
I remember when I was little watching a film about Doctor Doolittle, who could speak to animals, and how he traveled across the ocean in a giant snail shell, or something like that. At the time it seemed perfectly reasonable to me. And a couple years ago in my world religions class, I did a project on Shintoism, and I compared the religion to a snail shell. It just seemed so fitting- something about the perfection and simplicity of it, and the spiritual world as being interconnected to the natural world.