A Love Story
By Gene (Rick) Maze
Creation Date: 11 SEP 02
Revision Date: 14 September 2008
Like anyone faced with tragedy or some other form of emotional shakeup, I too felt confused and somewhat lost among the complexities of my life. The specifics didn’t matter, they never do, nor the names and places of the people involved, all that need concern me now was my ability to recover and move on. Even as I thought this, I knew I remained a man very much out of focus, adrift, with no clear destination in sight.
Moving across the blacktop, I left the familiarity of the parking lot and walked out upon the sand. The wind was light, and the day, although still cloudy, seemed unnaturally quiet and peaceful with few people present along the shore. I stood there looking out upon the aftermath of a storm, the beach coated with small clumps of seaweed and other ocean debris.
The few people in evidence were spread sporadically about its long and nearly empty expanse, all walking randomly, mostly alone –and like me– seemingly lost within their own personal concerns. With a thought for solitude in mind, I climbed among the dunes, easily reaching the top of a rather small one, my thoughts still very much in turmoil, the weight of my own concerns bearing heavily upon me.
An invigorating draft of fresh sea air filled the expanse of my lungs, assisting in my need to distance myself from my present worries. As I breathed deeply, taking in the sights, the wild chaotic beauty of this place and its serene scenery finally broke through the wall of my earlier depression.
Standing there elevated on my small rise I looked down upon the strand, my eyes continually roving the stretch of beach before me. Consciously I sought nothing, yet subconsciously I do not doubt I was searching for that unknown something that would magically fill the emptiness so long present within my soul. Surrendering to the moment, I allowed the beauty of this place to enliven me, my gaze roving randomly about, taking it all in, unsure what mystery of nature might lay in wait for any wanderer with an astute and discerning eye.
A sound of laughter caught my ear, its tone full and musical, a lively chorus rising easily above the crash and thunder of the waves pounding majestically upon the shore. My eyes shifted following the sound and at last came to rest upon a little group playing along the waterline.
From my higher vantage point I could clearly see a group of three working together in purposeful fashion, among them a young woman, and with her two small giggling children, all busily constructing a structure from the sand and copious ocean debris. Discretely observing, I watched as the woman actively participated, offering continual encouragement, seemingly joyous and playful and fully satisfied in their efforts. The two little ones in-turn appeared proudly ecstatic at her smiling approval and unceasing encouragement in their creative achievement.
I continued to watch closely as the sand castle they were erecting slowly rose growing greater in both size and complexity. All the while as they worked the young woman spoke intently with them, never losing sight of the fact that these young ones were but children still, and that whatever the lesson was she was teaching must remain of interest and be fun. Watching the response of the children, I could easily see the earnest attention they showered upon her, and I knew this was a special woman indeed to be so honored with such evident focus and rapture.
Without conscious thought I slowly sidled closer, making my way down the dune and casually strolling among the flotsam and jetsam strewn in great abundance along the beach. I found a spot of interest not too distant, and with hands in pockets I proceeded to stare out upon the horizon, the very picture of a man at rest, alone, and in deep thought. The sound of their voices came clearly now and I allowed myself a moment to listen and quietly reflect upon this woman's words.
"...But what is it?" said a young boy's voice. And the young woman replied. "It is your rock." "I have a rock too!" the young girl exclaimed, glee apparent in her voice as she held up a shiny piece of shell she'd found earlier along the seashore. They all quickly broke into giggling, the young woman among them. "No No No!” the woman replied her laughter like music, her tone tender and full of love. "Not that kind of rock! This is a different kind, but like it, in a way. This special rock lies deep inside you, and it's your very own, unique and different than any other in all the world...."
I can't deny I stood there entranced, her voice, soft and sweet as a lullaby, the lilt and tone, seemingly magical in nature, and so I chose to remain for a time and listen further. This young woman’s words and the tenderness of her message proved calming, and overcame my initial impulse to withdraw when forced to once again contemplate any life issues either of an intimate nature or deeply emotional in scope. In truth the choice was no longer mine, I was held there, enchanted by this woman's tale, as much a captive as any man who through no lack of effort has been deftly outmaneuvered, and is at long last left without avenue of escape. In recognition of my predicament I merely surrendered to the moment and proceeded to listen attentively as her story continued to unfold before me.
"...You see, your rock is your own and belongs to no one else but you, there will be times when you may share your rock, but no one can ever take it from you. It is a part of you and will always be there hidden somewhere deep within, ready and waiting for that moment in your life when you are adrift and need it most.
This rock of yours can be large or small, light or heavy, but one thing is certain, it can never be lost or stolen, and it can never be broken. It is immovable and stronger than anything on this earth, it is the foundation of all that you are or someday will be, and everything you do will be built upon it. And now I'll teach you about all those things you need to make it even stronger...."
Long did I listen as the music of her words issued forth like a melody, it came to me then, that I was standing there before a simple Shepherd, one whose love of her flock was so overwhelming that she took great care that each and every one knew they were special. It was clearly her desire to pass on to them the knowledge of her years, and all those tools necessary to survive the many tragedies of life. For me, she seemed as a light in the darkness, and as her story continued to unfold, I once again became lost in her words.
"...This rock you build must be made unbreakable, to do this you must demonstrate honesty, and have respect for life and all those around you. You must set aside your fears and learn to trust one another, and you must voice your thoughts that those around you may know you, and understand.
In all these things you must strive, and if you do well, there will come a day when love too, shall at long last, bloom within your heart. This is the secret, for when you achieve love, you have truly found your rock and it will indeed be unbreakable...."
The story soon ended, and though much more was stated I was by that time adrift in my own thoughts. I soon heard gales of laughter once again and took that moment to glance back, observing as the woman ruffled the young boy’s hair. The joy I witnessed in them as they played among each other was beautiful to behold, and I could not deny, I too, wished to be among that happy union. Too soon the moment ended, and I watched as they shook out their towels and made ready for their journey home. The children excited to be on their way, grabbed up their pails, and with the young woman in tow, marched away across the dunes.
With their presence now absent, I couldn't help but feel somehow less complete, and as I glanced along the shoreline, the realization came to me that I was the last person left upon the strand. I walked over and stood before the proud little sandcastle delicately built with their loving hands; it was a wonderful thing, with a moat and a tower at each corner, and an even larger one like a central keep in the very middle.
It was now very late, and the tide, at last returning, was quick to spread ruin, breaking apart the battlements and wreaking havoc upon the fortress. I watched as little by little and wave by wave their tiny creation was washed away. A final ocean swell swept forward and the center keep at last collapsed, falling away silently into the past. I stood there attentively, amused as it slowly disappeared.
As I turned to go, a small flash caught my eye and I paused glancing down in surprise, for in the very center of what was once the central tower stood a tall slim rock. Gazing upon it, I couldn’t help but contemplate how strange it was that when all is washed away the rock will still remain, forever waiting there for someone else to once again come along and build their dreams upon it.
* * * * * * *
I made my way along the shore and headed back across the dunes, as I left that place –my heart light and my spirit soaring– I couldn't help but feel grateful to that wonderful young Shepherd and her simple yet heartfelt message of faith, love, hope, and eternal optimism for a better tomorrow.