Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Beach (07/04/05)
TITLE: Never Ending Treasure
By Beth Muehlhausen
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A cutting wind swept over the surface of the lake that October day, while a few crisp oak leaves drifted along in the shallows behind her. Frozen in place on the beach, the chilled and very lonely, weeping woman could find no consolation. “I must be dying inside,” she thought, and huddled closer to the sand.
The destruction…she couldn’t bear to watch it, and yet she must. Was there really a choice? Only a few weeks before she’d cried quietly through the night before writing a farewell:
“Here where my heart first grew roots, a little piece of me must stay. I cannot fully leave this place I love, but will take the essence of the cottage with me, leaving an element of my soul behind.”
She turned from the dusty remains of her beloved summer cottage and the clanging wrecker with its swinging cannonball to face the lake: a glittering field of blue, speckled with white-hot diamonds. Scanning the familiar shoreline, she longed for evidence that it really wasn’t over. Surely she wasn’t actually being forced to divorce her first true love!
She felt wracked, shaken, as if her heart had stretched to the limit and finally burst, splattering in tiny shard-like fragments throughout her soul and body.
Had it truly broken?
Through swollen, tear-flooded eyes, a nearby shimmer invited her attention. She longingly reached into the icy water to retrieve the gem - one more shiny shell. Just one more before she must leave for good.
“Lord, just one more! Why must there be an end? Why, after belonging here for half a century?” Her heart cried out, but the only response was the gentle murmur of the waves licking the shore.
The log cabin, originally erected by her father’s own bare hands, hastily crashed to a heap under the influence of the wrecking ball. Within days the new owner also took other drastic measures, raping the land, destroying every bit of its previous identity. All the majestic oak and maple trees were stripped bare and their stumps ripped from the ground. The gently sloping hill disappeared scoop by scoop. It was as if a giant eraser wiped out the entire place, leaving only a gaping barrenness. But beyond the stricken path of this annihilation, the soft sand with its mysterious treasures still beckoned to her. The beach seemed priceless; something money couldn’t buy or destroy.
As the months marched along she continued to drive by this spot to monitor changes and mourn her devastating loss. Had she also been stripped bare internally? Was her heart mowed down and destroyed? It seemed so, but she could not know – not yet.
With each visit, memories from the past seemed to march in review before her eyes like a parade of innocent children, oblivious to everything but their own honesty.
She remembered herself as a tanned, tow-headed tom-boy, meticulously scavenging with the intensity of a geologist, beachcombing and digging in the sand for treasures. She recalled hoarding stashes of deep purple and iridescent clamshells, brown striped snails, bits of snow-white quartz, and stones of varying shades of red, gray, and black. Sometimes searching for “Indian beads” required patience beyond measure. Actually segments of fossilized plants, these little round donut-looking rocks could be strung on thin twine and worn as ultra-precious bracelets and necklaces. All of her treasures were equally valuable by virtue of their source: the lake. All owned the same magical identity, all conveyed the same personal message: “You belong here with us where your heart is free…this is your place of hope.”
Her restoration continues today, even years after the wrecking ball did its job. A portion of her heart still remains at that beach just as she predicted. It promises to stay with the sand and rocks and shells until she dies, for it was in this place that she learned how to hope: to know that there was life beyond darkness, that every day need not be defined by anger and depression and fear. Here she learned to shed inadequacy and become visionary, to search for the next treasure and the next and the next, with the sure knowledge that her Supplier would never run out.
Today she walks more confidently on other faraway shores - still trusting that same Supplier while awaiting final placement on her own eternal beach overflowing with infinite riches.
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