My mother gifted me a cultured pearl necklace, one that sat just below the indention of the “V” of my neckbone. Round pearls, symmetrical, shiny with the promise of worlds that opened to my future.
I accepted them with reluctance, that I hope I didn’t reveal. Pearls from a time where they indicated a sense of place in society, perfect for complimenting the sedate dress, the topping of simplicity and good taste.
I’ve shunned these pearls which have taken years to form below the sea, the efforts of time pressed inward. I had no understanding of the links between the past and future, the present being a sense of obligation, one of I didn’t feel worthy of.
It’s taken a life worth of living to understand that even the waves of the ocean are an allusion. Waves move energy not water. Currents, wind, storms swirl around the energy. The tide so linked to the sun and the moon that we forget the invisible forces.
Each chapter of my life from the suburbs of Baltimore to the lofty ideas of Boston University, the shores of Puerto Rico to the mountains and ocean views of the Pacific Northwest, the jobs I held to and the family I raised are like the kernels of sand within the oyster shells.
I’m filled with imperfections, the gritty parts of life.
This morning I sat inside the sauna, warming my chilled bones from a swim. I watched a women create an “A” with her body along the back wall, folding herself in half, stretching in all forms, then curling herself within a squat. I queried if she’d practiced yoga. She answered that her body was very flexible. I nodded, “Me too but I do yoga for strength. When I used to do backbends, I had difficulty getting back-up. My instructor said, “I guess you bend over backwards too much for others, you have to gain internal strength.” The stranger stood up and smiled. “I’m going through a divorce, and your words stated so simply, what I do.”
Yesterday a couple who lived in my condominium, sat in the lobby. I’d see them go out for their daily walk and coffee like clockwork at 2:00 PM. She used a stroller to move smoothly, he with his long white ponytail always opened the door, and the two made their way to the main road. He wobbled ever so slightly holding onto his cane. On this day the couple was dressed up. They waited for a friend, who each Tuesday picked them up and took them wherever they wanted to go. Since her strokes and his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, this gift had made them whole. They volunteered years ago to give up their keys.
The woman told me she felt guilty taking up her friends Tuesdays for the last five years. I replied. “Yes, that is a gift, you must mean the world to her. I’m sure she feels honored to repay all your kindnesses.”
As I said this, I remembered the pearl necklace, a gift from my mother. I had misunderstood the significance. It was never meant as a showy item, a designation of who or what I was. I realized that the pearls were what one saw, but the challenging work was invisible.
I had to become the string, strong and flexible, that held the necklace together, the connector that threaded lives and assigned meaning and value to my existence.
My mother’s message was a reminder to me, that the beauty of the cultured pearls came from the invisible force of energy, the sand particles moving in the waves. The vibrations and movement of internal strength.
I often touch the “V” of my neck, an arrow pointed towards my heart. Without this connection, the pearls are impostors.
Thanks to www.Wordsmith.org and A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, I have received for the last twelve years in my in-box a “word” with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. I must confess that the words eek into my brain and sometimes into my stories. Here are two words that struck me as noteworthy:
MEANING: adjective: Lasting a very short time; transitory.
noun: Anything short-lived.
ETYMOLOGY: From Greek ephemeros (short-lived), from epi- (upon) + hemera (day). Earliest documented use: 1576.
MEANING: noun: 1. Someone who likes to suck their thumb. 2. A journalistic piece that deals with the background and interpretation of events instead of hard news.
ETYMOLOGY: Why thumbsucker for such a piece of writing? It has been explained as something that a journalist writes after sucking their thumb for a while instead of going out there and covering hard news. Another interpretation is that such a piece provides background and interpretation of an event as a way to comfort the reader. It’s also called news analysis or a think piece. Earliest documented use: 1891.
Hard facts now have an ephemeral feel to them, inventions made by thumbsuckers, appeasing with opinions said often and loud enough, they almost seem real.
In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.Czeslaw Milosz, poet, and novelist (30 Jun 1911-2004)
One day work is hard, and another day it is easy; but if I had waited for inspiration, I am afraid I should have done nothing. The miner does not sit at the top of the shaft waiting for the coal to come bubbling up to the surface. One must go deep down and work out every vein carefully.Arthur Sullivan, composer (13 May 1842-1900)
I fill my days with writing poems, thoughts, and continuing with the novel about Sealy. My critique group keeps me writing, inspired, and makes sure that my novel flows.
Recently Scott Schafer asked me to write for the B-Town Blog in Burien, part of a larger web of local blogs that informs the public of events, crime, politics, culture, education and more. As the newbie in town, I’m looking forward to journalistic reporting and perhaps a way to find interesting stories with my impressions.
I’m enjoying the local library—taking out two or three books at a time. I have deadline of one month to read them. I keep a book by my bed and one at the breakfast nook. I squeeze in a few hours of reading each day.
Alice Munro is one of my all-time favorite authors. She doesn’t disappoint in the collection of short stories, Carried Away. Her women have depth, strength, and surprise us in their behaviors. Detailed descriptions paint scenes that draw you in. You become part of the story. Munro might be talking about a time long ago, but it all feels contemporary.
Nick Hornby’s book, Just like You, reads like a TV series packed into a book. A middle-aged woman falls for a younger man by twenty years. He starts out as the babysitter, then a love interest. Neither takes advantage of the other. Complicated by age, race, and generational differences, the story made me laugh and cringe. This isn’t my normal read, but perfect for travel.
Last month I followed one of my dreams as a performer. I became part of the 7-minute story tellers at the Highline Heritage Museum. No reading, just performing from memory and heart. Not knowing anyone in the audience, I began. Exhilarated, I’ll do it again this month.
Here is more information for those who live near Seattle: Stories should be memorized and told by heart. If you would like to tell your story on one of the above themes, please e-mail email@example.com or burienculturehub.org/7stories
Also, to prepare your story in advance of delivering it, consider taking one of the storytelling workshops being offered at the Highline Heritage Museum on July 6 or September 7.
This event takes place at the Highline Heritage Museum, 819 SW 152nd Street and currently, the audience is limited to three people per storyteller. But the event is livestreamed on the B-Town Blog and available the next day on
If you’d enjoy a talk with your book group or other writing groups, contact me here.
What is Freedom?
Until my eyes
Settle on the dusty fields
The bare mountains
For the cover of
The loose clothing
That gives structure
We are nothing if we
Abandon ourselves to chaos.