"An accident could happen to these oysters, a grain of sand could lie in the folds of muscle and irritate the flesh until in self-protection the flesh coated the grain with a layer of smooth cement. But once started, the flesh continued to coat the foreign body until it fell free in some tidal flurry or until the oyster was destroyed. " The Pearl
I remember teaching this novel, the symbolism, the extended metaphors, the barren setting, the characterization of poverty and ignorance. With 20 years more in my career, I would teach it differently than I did then. Nevertheless, the metaphor about pain and rare beauty ran across my mind while I sat eating Saturday morning breakfast with my friend, Julie and it hasn't left me.
A week ago on a long walk with Taylor's friend Mandi, she asked if I believed something good would come out of losing Sis. It's a question that honestly haunts me because it feels like a choice - like I have to choose the something good over choosing Taylor Renee.
So between last Sunday and yesterday morning, Steinbeck's metaphor has joined the wrestling match, tagging for its turn as my mind and heart roll around with this familiar sadness.
My friend, Julie, who sees through the ducked questions and diversion topics finally reached across the table at breakfast and said something along the lines of - "It's November. November has hard days. How are you?" The hard conversation ensued, the guts of which lay as labyrinth of overlapping thoughts but are adorned with the purity of friendship. We left the breakfast diner without finding our way out of grief's maze, but with sound confidence in a friendship of three decades. As I drove away, the morning giving way to noon and the November sun warming my Honda, I heard that inaudible voice say, "Why do you think you have to choose?"
I had told Mandi (a week ago) that I was sure something good would happen - directly or indirectly - but that it would never be worth losing Tayor. I audibly questioned my faithfulness when I shared my answer with her - but I can't add the weight of dishonesty to this wrestling match.
When an irritant lodges itself between the muscles of on oyster, the organism responds to the constant discomfort by covering the irritant with a secretion called nacre. The oyster continues to provide layer upon layer of this secretion to protect itself and in its wake, the world gains a pearl. Sometimes the pearl floats out of the oyster during a strong tide; other times the oyster has to be destroyed in order to harvest the pearl.
I don't know the answer to the question I heard yesterday or how it fits together with a novel I taught nearly two decades ago. Sometimes when I begin to write, the answer appears on the page, but not tonight. However, I do know God continues to walk with me and find my heart through my friends and my daughter's sweet friends. I do believe 'All things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose." It's waiting for me on the outside of this maze or in the inside of some oyster.