Symbol of Strength

I’m currently designing a salt cellar for the coastal kitchen. The design incorporates oyster shells from the Gulf of Mexico and enhances the cook’s kitchen décor. So as I’m handcrafting these precious home décor items, my mind ruminates about the oyster and its shell. Allow me to share a few thoughts I’ve had about the oyster.

Through this process of design, the oyster shells have undergone several treatments to prepare them for use in the home. I have to say, I haven’t had to be gentle with these shells. Typically I work with Sea Urchin and other shells, which are so fragile I have to treat them gently and lightly. So in contrast, the oyster shells are a relief to work with on this project. They are so tough and can take a tumble or two.

   Farmers Market, Paris France 2017, Photo by Kittridge Laine

 Farmers Market, Paris France 2017, Photo by Kittridge Laine

Are we like that? I know we all take a tumble or two, but are we tough? Do we have a hard, protective layer surrounding our soft, inner selves? I think to some point I do have resilience and a tough mental attitude that leads me to persevere in challenging circumstances. Yet I can’t imagine that strength comes from me alone. I believe my faith plays a leading role to making it through life’s tumbles.

Also I know I can’t do this life thing alone. I’m not isolated – even the oysters adhere together.  They adhere to undersides of boats or to buoys or to docks in great numbers. Naturally they are found clustered together. Even some of the shells I’m working with have pieces of other shells attached. A confirmation of not living life solo, but in community.

As I work with the oysters, I’m mesmerized not only by the strength of the outer shell but the shimmering beauty of the inner shell. I turn them in my hand and watch the mother of pearl coating shimmer in the light. I also love the touch of violet hue in the shape of a circle. This beauty captures my attention.  Also I see a resemblance of that aspect in people I meet. Friends and acquaintances that have been through a really hard time, yet are so beautiful from the inside out, they too garner my attention.

Speaking of beauty, I recently found a pearl inside one of the shells. Not a perfectly round and loose one, but instead it was attached and buried in the layers of the interior of the shell. It was partially formed and laying just below the surface. Which leads me to think of the irritant which entered the shell and how it was met with resistance and its natural defenses set into play to encapsulate the foreign substance and keep the oyster safe. The essence of how a beautiful pearl is formed from an unexpected encounter. Which makes me look at pearls differently now. I now see pearls as symbols of overcoming. Symbols of strength. Symbols of faith that we can overcome unexpected challenges. We are resilient.

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(For my science loving friends, here is a great article about the adhesive substance that assists the oysters in sticking together in wet environments. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100920142602.htm)

 

Pearlescent Beauty

I’ve had the opportunity lately to meet some amazing women. As I reached out and shared my story about wanting to help others in need, people have appeared in my life ready to help. This week, I met Nancy who wants to introduce me to Barbara because she is an artist. Typically Barbara would be there among our group, but she is facing some challenges. She is undergoing personal medical challenges as well as taking care of her husband. If I am to meet her, I will need to go to her. And it sounds like I need to meet her. As I was standing in the corridor visiting with Nancy, Jane walked up and joined the conversation. They went on and on about Barbara and what a lovely person she is and what a gentle spirit she has – there is none like her and I must make a point to reach out and meet her. Jane and Nancy were quite gracious in their compliments about their friend and urged me to connect even though she is in a trying time at the moment.

 

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It’s typical for my mind to start racing in the early morning hours. I rarely have a need for the alarm clock because my mental chatter becomes so loud it wakes me to start the day. Yet this morning, my mind turned to thinking of the people I want to help and to Barbara, as well as others I’ve meet along the way. I’ve encountered women that have undergone insurmountable struggles, yet if you were to meet them at a cocktail party, you would never guess. These women exude love and peace and happiness. They light up rooms with their personality. They are inquisitive and want to know more about you and what it is you do. And they draw you in with their charm and wit and laughter. There is a beauty about them like none other.

 

Yet I know the backstory to their lives. For example, take Becca’s story. She is the one who almost lost her husband due to his need for a kidney transplant. I watched how she handled the weight of uncertainty not knowing if he would survive to see their 4 young children grow up and go to college and be there to hold her hand through it all. Her resiliency was a witness to so many as she has walked by his side during the ups and downs of his medical treatment. Meeting them today, you might never guess they endured this hardship. Their warmth and hospitality is so rich. Part of me wonders if it is due to the hardship they endured. Was it the fuel to living life to the fullest?  Is the beauty there because of what they went through?

 

Which lead me to think about how pearls are made. It was one of the driving thoughts that made me stir and get out of bed this morning. An irritant enters the oyster shell and can’t expel it. So it does what it can do and starts to coat it in a secretion that hardens into a pearl. Layer upon layer, through a slow process, beauty begins to form within.

 

Recently while visiting with a group about times of struggle, we all agreed that our priorities change and almost like cream rising to the top, the most important aspects of our lives get attention and all else sinks to the bottom of our to do list. Periods of struggle seem to give us clarity to what really matters in life. I wouldn’t wish a hardship on anyone, but at the same time, I get to witness a transformation – a blossoming – a becoming that might not have happened had the incident not occurred. I feel so honored to have met these radiate people and witness the beauty shining deep within and grateful that they lovingly share so generously with those around them. To see one go through life with strength and resilience and endure the unwelcomed so it can transform lives into something beautiful.