A Pocketful of Stones

Out for a walk along our graveled country road, I spotted a perfect “bug” stone. In the past I have done some painting on rocks and my grandson has been pestering me to paint some more bugs. So as I walked along I was keeping my eyes open for smooth stones that would paint up into neat little beetles.

I picked up the stone and slipped it into my pocket. Before long I spotted another … and another. Some stones were oblong, some oval, one perfectly round and flat. The perfect ladybug.

Tumbled centuries ago — maybe for years — in the water currents until they were nice and smooth, these stones came to rest in an underground pit. Men came along with big machines load all this gravel onto trucks and spread it on our road bed. Many stones have come through this process intact.

After I’d pocketed half a dozen stones of various sizes I began to feel the weight of them. They weren’t rough or disturbing, just gently heavy. That side of my jacket pulled a bit as I walked. And I was seeing more “perfect bug” specimens that I could take along with me. I had to start saying “No more. Nice shape or not, it stays right there!”

I have this tendency to look down at the road as I walk, but I soon realized that if I didn’t want a pocketful of rocks weighing down my every step, I’d need to keep my eyes fixed on the horizon until I was home.

Funny how such small things can teach a big lesson. Those stones really aren’t a valuable commodity of themselves. If I use them profitably — paint them up and please the grandson — well and good. But if I set them aside when I get home, saying, “Someday I will,” they become just one more clutter, another item on my to-do list, another weight on my mind.

In our electronic world we can lose focus, too. There are so many interesting social sites to suck up our hours, we can lose sight of our important life-goals. I haven’t picked up Facebook, Twitter, etc, but was involved in Linked In for a time. So much to learn, so many groups to connect with! And now I have a book to promote, so two weeks ago I picked up a weighty stone when I signed up for Goodreads. So many interesting books to read and review, friends to make! I can see how this site alone could consume a lot of time.

I have my blog and read or follow many others. Some days dozens of e-mails and notifications flood my Inbox; I find myself checking my e-mail twenty times a day and spending hours responding. Lately I have definitely been feeling the weight!

NaNoWriMo has been sending out notices lately, too, reminding me to sign up for the November novel-writing adventure. I plan to participate this year; yesterday I filled in the synopsis for the children’s story I hope to write.

My walk-about the other day reminded me that I’ve let many small things distract my long-range goal: the books I want to write/finish. Someday there will be an end to what I can accomplish in this world. If I don’t stop frittering away my time and weighing myself down by picking up appealing, but trivial, stuff along the way, I’ll have little to show for my time here.

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Results and Roses

by Edgar Guest

The man who wants a garden fair,
or small or very big,
with flowers growing here and there,
must bend his back and dig.

The things are mighty few on earth
that wishes can attain;
whate’er we want of any worth
we’ve got to work to gain.

It matters not what goal you seek,
its secret here reposes:
you’ve got to dig from week to week
to get results and roses.

From his book, A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by the Reilly & Britton Company

Improvement

by Edgar Guest

The joy of life is living it
or so it seems to me;
in finding shackles on your wrists,
then struggling till you’re free;

in seeing wrongs and righting them,
in dreaming splendid dreams,
then toiling till the vision is
as real as moving streams.

The happiest mortal on the earth
is he who ends his day
by leaving better than he found
to bloom along the way.

Were all things perfect here there would
be naught for man to do;
if what is old were good enough
we’d never need the new.

The only happy time of rest
is that which follows strife
and sees some contribution made
unto the joy of life.

And he who has oppression felt,
and conquered it, is he
who really knows the happiness
and peace of being free.

The miseries of earth are here
and with them all must cope.
Who seeks for joy, through hedges thick
of care and pain must grope.

Through disappointment man must go
to value pleasure’s thrill;
To really know the joy of health
a man must first be ill.

The wrongs are here for man to right
and happiness is had
by striving to supplant with good
the evil and the bad.

The joy of life is living it
and doing things of worth,
in making bright and fruitful
all the barren spots of earth,

in facing odds and mastering them
and rising from defeat,
and making true what once was false
and what was bitter, sweet.

For only he knows perfect joy
whose little bit of soil
is richer ground than what it was
when he began to toil.

From his book, JUST FOLKS
published 1917 by The Reilly & Britton Co.