Abbie Gascho Landis lives on a farm with her husband, an environmental scientist, and two children, in Cobleskill, New York, where she is a veterinarian and writer. Her work has been published in Pinchpenny Press, Full Grown People, and Paste Magazine; her new book is Immersion: The Science and Mystery of Freshwater Mussels (Island Press, 2017). Landis is the recipient of a Documentary Essay Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and an Arthur DeLong Writing Award; she was a finalist for the Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Award in 2013. Landis has a bachelor’s degree in English and biology from Goshen College and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Ohio State University. Read her blog at thedigandflow.com.
An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By.Freshwater mussels live mostly buried. Their shell edges are parted like a surprised gasp, exposing two apertures. One intakes and the other releases water, which is how mussels eat, breathe, and even gather sperm to meet their eggs. Those apertures actually look like Georgia O’Keefe paintings—flower, female anatomy—elegant ovals decorated with variously shaped and colored papillae. Apertures, papillae, curve of a shell.