A Year of gifts
SOMETIMES THE ROADBLOCKS, SETBACKS, AND HEARTBREAKS OF LIFE TURN OUT TO BE THE GREATEST GIFTS OF ALL . . .
I admit it. I was struggling with what to write about for this week’s post. Last November, I committed to posting a blog entry every Sunday morning for at least one year. My writing prompt would be a chapter name from my first novel, Whispering Pines. Each chapter in the book is named for one of the endless gifts life has to offer. Writing the posts is fun, and I’ve stuck to my commitment, but some weeks are tougher than others to come up with something I hope you’ll find inspiring and fun. Now, stay with me, because this gets really good.
I also like structure and spreadsheets. In addition to being a writer, I’m an accountant. Bit of a strange combination, I know! A month or two into my one-year blogging experiment, I decided to “assign” the chapter headings to a specific week for the coming months. It would give me a place to start each week and some topics lend themselves better to certain times of the year. I’ve done some rearranging along the way, but it’s helped.
Months ago, I assigned the “Gift of Night Waves” title to my July 29th blog post. It’s a pivotal chapter in the book, one that has a big impact on my main character’s life and it takes place half-a-world away. So fun! But I was struggling to come up with an idea for this blog post. I was ready to switch to Gift of Distraction and speak to Night Waves later. But then something happened Friday night that still boggles my mind.
Today’s post really started three years ago, well before I even thought about writing a blog and two years before publishing my first novel. It was a beautiful summer day at the lake and we’d just purchased two new kayaks. I’d never been in a kayak before. If you’ve done any kayaking, you know they can be tricky to get into and out of, but once you’re in, they can be fun and relatively easy to navigate, at least on a calm day.
Novice kayaker that I was, I wore my favorite flip flops on my first outing. Getting in was a bit rocky but I made it. Getting out, not so much. We don't have a sandy lake bottom in front of our cabin. In fact, it can be quite nasty. Lots of clay, sharp shale and muck. I got within a couple feet of shore. Balancing the little craft, I managed to get my first leg out and step on the lake bottom. The water was only about knee deep. As I stood and hoisted myself out of the kayak, I could feel my first foot sink deep into the sludge. I took a step toward shore and my sandal pulled off my foot, stuck. I wasn’t worried. I’d just get the boat up out of the water and come back and pull my flip flop out of the crud. After all, it was only a few feet from shore, right in front of our shale beach.
But there was a problem. The more I ran first my feet and then my hands over the top of the sludge to find my favorite shoe, it was as if it had disappeared. You have to understand, I loved those flip flops and this was ridiculous. A shoe can’t just disappear. Can it?
Actually, it could. I searched in vain but it was gone, even going so far as to offer a $20 reward to any kid that could find my left flip flop. I don’t give up easily. Anytime I was down in that area, I’d look. But as the days and weeks passed, I knew it had likely let loose from the bottom at some point and floated away. My missing shoe became a bit of a family joke. A little mystery. I couldn’t bring myself to toss the matching shoe. You just never know, right?
Remember, my shoe was lost to the lake bottom in the summer of 2015. Now, fast forward to Friday evening, July 27, 2018. It’s a beautiful, calm evening and my daughters go down to the dock to do a little fishing. After the flurry of activity that comes with our Friday night arrivals at the cabin, I decide to go join them on the dock to relax and catch up a little. The sun is starting to set and I’ve been sitting too long. Thinking I’d explore a little before full dark fell, I wandered off the dock, heading along the shore line back toward the cove. I’d only gone a couple of yards when I stopped, my eyes wandering over the water lapping against the shore. Sometimes you can see little minnows swimming there.
The water wasn’t clear. It had a brownish cast. Right near the shore, something was floating. It could have been a small chunk of wood, maybe bark, but it looked out of place. I bent down to take a closer look. Now it looked like the sole of a shoe. Yep, you guessed it.
I can’t make this stuff up. We’d searched on and off for three years for my favorite little flip flop. Kids don’t give up easily either when there’s twenty bucks on the line and they knew I was good for it, if only they could find the sunken treasure. Too bad for them I was the one to finally find it, floating along the shore, three years later, in the same area I’d lost it.
Picking it up, my initial thought was someone was trying to pull a fast one on me. Maybe putting my right sandal into the water where I could find it? I’d always thought that, if it was still stuck out there, there would be little left of it. But my shoe didn’t look too bad. It was still intact, and mud caked, but in better shape than I thought possible.
We were all in a bit of shock. My girls were adamant they didn’t know anything about someone sticking the “other” sandal in the water that I’d saved all these years, just to play a joke on me. I ran up to the cabin, rinsed off the muck from my find, and left it on the patio so I could go dig through the shoe basket inside. And there it was. The mate to my lost shoe I hadn’t been able to throw away…just in case. No one had tricked me. I’d gotten a little gift, the night before my birthday, floating gently on the night waves.
I could just write it off as a series of coincidences. But when I combine the fact my favorite sandal was missing… in the water…for three years and it just happened to break loose and I happened to walk by the shore and find it before it could float away, coupled with the fact I’d initially planned to create a blog post called Gift of Night Waves for this Sunday, it’s all a bit crazy. Oh, and there is one more twist. Today, as I write this post, it’s 7/28/18, my first birthday without my amazing mother. She’s been on my mind so much lately. All these “firsts” without her are tough. She was a frequent visitor at our cabin and knew of my quest to find my missing shoe. She’d laugh and shake her head at me.
I’m going to chose to accept my gift from the waves as a sign and an important reminder. Never give up on something, no matter how long it takes or ridiculous it seems. Not everything can be explained. I’ll even let myself imagine it might just have been a little birthday greeting, sent by an angel.
There are little miracles around us every day, stay open to them! Kim
I love the word “stroll”. When I hear it, I immediately think of a leisurely nature walk. Or maybe a relaxed meandering down a quaint Main Street somewhere, window shopping and people watching. Even thinking about taking a stroll is a treat.
Yesterday, I did more than think about it. Late morning, I pushed away from my desk, slipped on comfortable shoes and gave myself permission to walk across the street and take a ten-minute stroll. Usually, if I do get some exercise during my work day, it's a one-hour power walk with the intention of getting in as many steps as possible so I can check “exercise” off the day’s to-do list. And even that doesn’t happen often enough. But this is different. My goal is to simply enjoy the park across the street. A gift to myself. And now my gift to you:
The weather is cooperating. It’s slightly overcast, there’s no wind (hard to believe!) and it’s warm at 79 degrees but not yet hot. As I cross the busy road, my ears are bombarded with the sounds of traffic, construction and “progress”. I follow the sidewalk rimming the north side of the park. My first destination is a beautiful seating area, graced with a large, colorful flower garden and bright hanging plants. No one is sitting on the benches. While the noise continues, I start to relax as I take in all the beautiful flowers. I “see” them everyday as I drive by, coming and going from work, but this time I really look at them.
Set a short distance back from the seating area is a small stone marker, flush with the ground. I might not have noticed it if not for the two small American flags waiving above it on short wooden sticks. I wander over and my breath catches as I read the inscription: In memory of Fargo Officer Jason Moszer End of Watch 2-11-16. I’m transported back to a cold, bleak day when the streets of Fargo were lined with people, showing respect for this brave peace officer, taken too soon.
From there, I wander over to the large monument bearing the inscription “Angel of Hope”. At the base is a small, handmade wooden cross. I wonder who might have placed the cross here, among the snowy white flowers. The monument is a beautiful tribute to the innocent, to lost children. Pavers bearing inscriptions to lost loved ones ring the monument. I pause to offer up a prayer for them.
The park is intersected with walking paths. As I stroll deeper into the heart of it, the sound of traffic and everyday life fades away, replaced by birds chirping and an occasional shout of laughter or murmur of conversation. Two women sit on a bench next to a huge pine, visiting. A man sits on top of a picnic table, ear buds in, listening to something as he looks at his phone. “Look up” I want to tell him, there is so much to see.
I hear the whirl of a lawn mower. The smell of fresh cut grass permeates the air and small swirls of grass clippings powder the path at my feet. A golf cart passes me with barely a sound. The driver gives me a friendly wave as he makes his way to the next trash bin. I feel a sense of gratitude for the work they do, keeping this pretty little gem groomed and clean in the middle of our city.
There are people around, but because the park is so large, I still feel a sense of solitude in this tranquil environment. Groups are playing tennis. Someone rides by on a bicycle. A man walks ahead of me, vaping. A group of adults are a little way off, playing some kind of game with a ball. I can hear their laughter. A bright cluster of playground equipment is off to my left. Kids play on the structure while those responsible for their care watch from the sidelines. I marvel at the height of the center structure of the play equipment. If a child can climb way up inside there to the top, the view has to be extraordinary.
I stop at a tall statue, obviously very old. The words inscribed are starting to fade. I read the name: Henrik Wergeland, June 17, 1808 – July 12, 1845. There is a description of him and I struggle to make it out. The words “a friend to the poor and oppressed” jump out at me, as does the note that this was a gift from Norway to the United States. Who was this man, dead now for 173 years? He must have been special.
The park is full of trees, both old and new. Efforts to maintain this space into the future are evident. Newer trees are staked to give them a chance to mature, a measure of protection against the inevitable storms and wind. The grass is green but dry patches are starting to show and the ground is showing a web of cracks. We need rain.
Off to my right is a majestic white gazebo. A park district vehicle sits beside it and someone stands high on a ladder inside, perhaps repairing the lofty ceiling. Many marriages have commenced here. I stop to check the schedule posted near the gazebo. There will be music played here in the coming days, open to the public with free will offerings to benefit local charities.
Continuing on, I reach an area of the park with newer sidewalks. There are treasures here, below the feet of visitors. Short poems, etched into the path. Written by children. I couldn’t help but snap a picture of one so I could remember a young girl’s words of wisdom and share them with you:
A New Beginning
Live life right,
Parks can take you anywhere.
Life is wonderful.
So live like it is.
Hannah W. Age 10
I stroll on, amazed at the wisdom of one so young. I’m now at the far end of the park. A woman is sitting at a picnic table, shoes kicked off, reading. I suspect she’s on an early lunch break. I start walking back toward the other end, following a different path now. This one takes me by a large, unique structure. A sign reads “Jerry Scherling Court Complex”. The backside flanks the tennis courts. Some day I’ll research what this is, who Jerry was.
I spot another flat, concrete marker at the base of a large evergreen. I wander over to see what this one says. Another memory, this one older, springs to mind as I read these words:
This tree is symbolic of the miracle of Christmas that the Fargo-Moorhead community experienced during the life-saving rescue of Alvard Garza in December of 1987. This tree has been planted to remind us of the miracle of life that we all experience each day.
Alvard was a young boy who nearly drowned when he fell through the ice on the Red River. His survival was nothing short of a miracle. I appreciate the reminder that we all witnesses miracles throughout our lives.
I’m now three-fourths of the way through the park, my stroll nearing its end. I stop at another beautiful flower bed. The brilliant yellow of the large marigolds happen to match my shirt today. The Island Park Pool is behind me. It won’t be long until this area is swarming with kids but I’m a little early. It isn’t open quite yet.
There is one last statue to stop at, to wonder about. This one towers far above me, too high for me to guess at its height. Near the bottom are the words “In Memory of our Comrades 1861-1865”. A man in uniform stands tall at the top of the structure. The year 1918 is placed in fancy scroll work near the top.
I check the time. My stroll has extended to twenty minutes and it’s time to get back. I pass by a sign in front of the YMCA, advertising openings in their fall back-to-school program, reminding me how fleeting summer is. As I make my way back across the asphalt, the heat of the day becomes apparent. Whether it’s from the sun reflecting off the concrete or the things I know are waiting for me back at my desk, I can’t know. But my little reprieve has been delightful. I’m reminded there is always a tranquil oasis not far from me. When life heats up or stagnates, I must remember to give myself permission to put on my walking shoes and take a stroll with my eyes wide open. I’ll again find my center and will learn new things in the process.
Life is good. Life is a gift. So truly live it! Kim
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a self-published fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!