“The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.” –Blaise Pascal
Today I woke to a cold and overcast morning. Packed lunch for the kids. Took them to school. On the way back home, I stopped at the beach and watched a high tide brush the base of overturned, resting boats on the shore. Everything was quiet except for the sounds of the birds and the shush of the water slipping against the sand. I stood and watched and took it in, then got back in my car and came home to begin my day.
Sometimes natural elements are powerful reminders of what’s outside of our control–the tidal pull, the winter storm, the shape of a day, another person’s actions.
That quote up there about a pebble in the ocean was such a profoundly big one for me that I put it in my senior yearbook in high school and have referred to it often throughout my life to keep myself motivated. The concept of it is so alluring–drop a pebble in, watch it affect the entire ocean.
This morning I missed the ferry to go to an appointment in Seattle. I was the very last car to not make it on. Rather than sitting there and fomenting about lost causes, I gave up and gathered pebbles from my Grammy’s beach.
On the way home I stopped at a little lookout off of Eagle Harbor Drive. It is a peaceful piece of water and birds. I have been watching the pull of the water there change daily for my entire life. Sometimes it is a mirror, a surface almost solid and entirely reflective, waiting for footsteps. Sometimes it is murky, muddy, a lassitude of wetness and rot. The curve of the bay is like an old woman stretching her arms out, hugging the shore and holding in the steamy fog and shudder of the tide.
I turned off my car, climbed to the top of some pilings along the water’s edge, and dropped in a pebble from my grammy’s beach. I watched it sink quickly to the sand below. I know my pebble had some effect. I removed it from one beach and inserted it into another. But did it affect the entire ocean?
This concept of control is a tricky one for sure. I’ve grappled with it thousands of times. Maybe it’s because the seduction of control is so fantastic. Believing that we can change the course of the tide through our one impact is delightful. I dropped it in, my work is done. Do something, be something. And do it well, for goodness sake.
But there’s so much more, isn’t there? It takes many more pebbles. The first one always counts. But so does the second, and the third, and the hundredth, and so on. So every single one is important to the entire ocean, the entire experience. Don’t despair if your one small fingerprint feels ill-equipped for creating change. Throw the pebble in. But my goodness, keep showing up at the shoreline with more pebbles. Right?
Another quote is so powerful to me right now, setting the tone for 2018 (oh my and maybe the rest of my life) that I wrote it down and hung on the wall of my writing studio atop Brian’s old painting palette. This one’s by Leonard Cohen:
I have long had a belief in hard work, discipline, certain moral guideposts–possibly to my own detriment, because it is a rigidity of belief that is akin to the moral of the ant and the grasshopper story: Get the work done; the results will speak for themselves. Those exist so strongly in me that I am not going to condemn them today. But I will notice that there is a trick to realizing that flaws not only happen, but they happen despite your best intentions.
The story doesn’t always have a perfect ending.
Maybe that’s because the story is still being written?
You can’t curate a perfect life. Fairy tales do happen AND they have cruddy dirt and evil villains in them. The magic is there, but it’s not all bubbles and butterflies. Keep building anyway. Keep throwing in the pebbles. The heroine needs to go through some tough poop to prove her steel. She needs to rise to the challenge and be tested.
Be something, do something, and do it well for goodness sake. But show up the next day and the next day, too.
<She says reminding herself to put that self-talk on repeat in 2018. Day after day. After day. After day.>
It’s difficult to mortar a tower at the deepest depth of the ocean, so don’t try to seal up the cracks. Just keep throwing the pebbles in. They might not head down the water in your intended formation. Keep throwing them in anyway. Work hard but nature will take its course. Keep going anyway. Every day. The story is still being written. Write it.
Let the light in.