Polishing Rocks


A pocket full of rocks when I was a kid meant this girl had a smile on her face. My favorites were the Apache teardrops from Papa (I now know they were obsidian), then there were the sparkly ones I so desperately wanted to believe were embedded with silver. Technically, my Papa’s arrowheads (that are strategically tucked in amongst tile work in our home) are also rocks, forged into weapons and later found along the shores of Lake Eufala (my daddy’s birthplace, by the way). My bare feet on smooth, wet river rock feel decadent (especially after a long, blistering hike), and one of my favorite getaways is Moonstone Beach where the entire shoreline is a meandering stretch of small and smooth blue, green and brown pebbles.

Sadly, any collector of “rocks in the wild” knows the colors are more vibrant and the surface more smooth when they are wet, covered by the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean or the rushing currents of Yosemite’s Merced River (or wherever your rocky refuge may be). Within moments of removing the treasure, it’s beauty and uniqueness fade. Even its texture changes and is more rugged.

Writing, for me, is a lot like plucking rocks out of the water. Laying out one word at a time (side by side for the first time) the words are pretty, one of a kind, and sometimes they seem, well, perfect! At first.

Getting my words, thoughts and emotions out of my head for the first time, whether it’s pain, love, joy (anything!) often feels like a race. Hurry, hurry, get it out! A physical purging. Twisted stomach and racing heart. Forget sleep or anything else that used to seem important. Getting the words out cools my heart to a tolerable smolder, especially when the topic is deeply personal and emotional. Afterward, I’m done. Exhausted yet exhilarated. Like I’ve finished a long training run. Accomplished.

But then, returning to the collection after some time away…so much for perfect. Sigh. Where did the sparkle and shine go? But this is where my hands rub together and the fun begins. Picking up word by word and polishing it in my mind. Not searching for perfection. As my boss and friend, Richard, always reminds me, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” To wait for perfection would mean relegating my writing to the bedside drawer. The lonely existence it has known for so long.

To realize that neither I nor my words are perfect makes it ok to put “pretty darn good” out there as a bridge, a pathway for connecting with others (some I don’t even know). The thought of inspiring a smile or a laugh, or maybe even hope in someone else brings me joy. To pretend otherwise would be silly. But putting those “polished not to perfection, yet pretty darn good” words down on paper truly puts me better in touch with myself. Sometimes that makes me happy, sometimes nostalgic, and sometimes a little sad.

But always, it’s good.

Two months and 17 blog posts after God, or Mom’s spirit, or the great Pacific Ocean (or all three) moved me to finally start writing, I have started a new collection of treasures. A collection of words and posts that keep people and memories and hopes and dreams…and sometimes even my faith…alive. And smiles. Hopefully there’s always a smile.


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