Click the blue links below to play audio:

It was still dark outside. My husband had left for work and the house was quiet. I felt the chill and rubbed my hands together for warmth. While still in my bathrobe, I picked up my guitar and began to scrawl the lyrics that were forming in my head.

A few moments earlier, I had been lying in bed thinking about my song. For several weeks, I was uncertain how to finish it. Now these new lyrics would tie my song together. All the pieces were filled in; completing my song was just like a puzzle!

I felt enthused and excited to have a new song to record. It wasn’t completely “new,” because it was inspired by three, old verses of lyrics and their chords.

I have recorded songs that I’ve left unchanged from how I wrote them thirty years ago. And then, there are a few songs that truly, feel new for me. This song does in many ways. I wasn’t in a rush to record it the way it was originally written.

As an illustrator, I have always liked the structure that came with receiving an assignment. Having perimeters, gave me a place to start rather than having to come up with completely, new ideas. When there were too many possibilities, I never knew where to begin!

Having “partial lyrics” and chords, was the structure that allowed for me to feel creative. My newest song still required a lot of chord composing, as well as melody and lyric additions.

I have wondered about whether I am closer to writing a song “from scratch.” I have no idea about where my journey is going and whether musical composing will be in my future.

Although I wanted my newest song to be unique from my other songs, it wasn’t meant to be. Even though it was about a seashell, it still reflected two, common themes of mine.

Those themes are: memories and the love that remains later on.

My songs, Memory of Love and Beside Me Always reflect this. I’ve decided my song can still be beautiful, even if the theme is repetitive. As I finished my last line of lyrics, the memories flooded back. My song was originally written about a young girl being given a seashell memento by her lover – so I thought!

However, as I sang my song, I flashed back to a day at the beach with my child. He was holding a seashell to add to his collection.

Seashell 3

For this song, I knew I had a painting somewhere of a white shell to use for a “song cover.” For fun, I’d like to share some of the choices I played around with!

“Selecting” (that’s also a Photoshop term) which seashell I’d incorporate reminded me of the thousands of hours I spent developing my extensive, “library of stock images.”



When I created “stock images,” I put in an extraordinary amount of time developing keywords. I was hopeful that all those keywords would allow people to find my images through search engines. I have not made much money selling stock illustration!

If I ever decide to write another seashell song, I would have plenty of inspiration for new lyrics by looking at my list of keywords on one of my seashell illustrations at Alamy. I really did want to find an alternate word for “alabaster,” but I couldn’t find one I liked as much – even with this list!

Here are the keywords that correspond with the illustration below it:

seashell shell sand Volute collection triton shallow shore collect clam variation specimen spots delicate exotic group bunch spiral shadow mollusk scallop cowry limpet seashore beach cockle oyster whelk helmet cone volute spiny auger common bivalve mussel conch pattern grains barnacle bury medley ornamental graceful murex whorl bulbous lines cylindrical polished aperture gastropod painted natural search periwinkle snail tusk luster pearl marine tide tidal fragile durable beautiful realistic real photorealism coast extension body hue numerous bright perfect shine waxy assortment arrangement arrange whole horizontal format unique simple contrast saturated vibrant brilliant smooth surround striped striation attached “olive shell” “worm shell” “top shell” “rock shell” “pen shell” hinge concentric chiton ribs wentletrap stromb turret mantle whorl organic exquisite remarkable scatter resting buried sprinkle granular grains warm prismatic limpit mollusk Triton cone volute spindle shell nature


The alabaster seashell rests

gently in the sand

the tide sweeps to its refuge

leaving it to gleam

in drifting, dune-like patterns

The alabaster seashell rests

gently in his hand

he tells her how he found it

a treasured memory

and reminder of his love

That seashell once held a living thing

It’s beauty remains to always bring

reminders of days like the one

combing the seashore in a brilliant sun

The alabaster seashell rests

gently in her hand

she feels his love is with her

even though he’s gone

the seashell glistens with her tears

That seashell once held a living thing

It’s beauty remains to always bring

reminders of days like the one

holding him tightly in a setting sun

The alabaster seashell rests

gently on her stand

it gathers dust with time

like the love that is

among her treasured memories

like the love that is

a treasured memory

Below is an excerpt about this story from my audio book:


My song, “Alabaster Seashell” began with three simple stanzas I wrote when I was 17. I vaguely remembered only part of the melody for the “Alabaster Seashell.”  But it was the beautiful chord progressions, which utilized a different guitar tuning, that enraptured me. I knew my song needed something more, but I had no idea how I was going to expand my song about a seashell. I started to experiment to see what I could come up with.


I have always loved seashells and deeply appreciated their indescribable beauty. When my art career first began, I received an assignment to create a series of eight, large paintings of seashells, which would be marketed as prints. As I painted dozens of seashells, I became quite familiar with their intricate shapes and colors.


I was surprised how telling the story of a seashell memento also stirred up many emotions inside of me. My memories of collecting seashells began during childhood. I kept jars of them in my bedroom and each shell represented a beautiful memory of a day spent searching the seashore. With those feelings, I started to compose some new lyrics to add to my song, but then I had such a major revelation with “The Alabaster Seashell” that it took my breath away.


My song was originally based upon the story of a boyfriend giving me a seashell when I was in my teens. With that story, I pictured myself older and looking back at the treasured memory my boyfriend gave me long ago, after we were no longer in love. But as I sang my old melody, suddenly my heart took me somewhere else. I was swept to a clear day at the beach. I squinted as the brilliant sun warmed my soul. My young son was walking with me along the seashore. Then, he bent down and excitedly cupped a sparkling white seashell in his hands to show me. His blue eyes were shining. The revelation of how my song had changed and the memory of that tender moment caused me to become overwhelmed with emotion. I realized that I had discovered how my song could be expanded.


I decided that a seashell was a beautiful metaphor about seeing death in a positive way. The creature that once inhabited the seashell left something beautiful behind when it died. Although the creature was gone, the seashell could bring comfort with its beauty and with the memories. The “Alabaster Seashell” reminded me of a magnificent day combing the beach with Jason. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I quickly scrawled out additional lyrics for my song.


The chords and melody to those new lyrics easily flowed right out from my heart. I was amazed at the process; it was as if they were simply waiting to be discovered. My song was now complete; it had two new choruses and an extra verse that even mentioned my tears. On the second chorus, I decided to change one line. I switched “combing the seashore in a brilliant sun,” to “holding him tightly in a setting sun.” With that change on the second chorus, I vividly pictured myself holding Jason that day at the beach. The setting sun represented how I felt in my heart that I would lose him someday; I knew our time together could not last. Because of this, I treasured every moment with him. Composing my song was also a parallel to the way I currently feel about my life; I strive to make each day count.

Below are links to more stories about this song, written years later:



— –

© Judy Unger and 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s