For those of you who know me well, you would know that I am a very curious person, and I spend time pondering things, simple things mostly. And next to pondering, I really enjoy invigorating conversation. With that in mind, I truly wish I could just brew a pot of tea, and we could sit a spell and talk about things, but I suppose a blog post will have to do.
At times, the ocean lures me away from our Texas Hill Country home, and Bill and I set sail. What is it about the water? The way it reflects the sky, the way that nothing can stop the waves, the depths, the colors, the mystery of what might be underneath – there’s something so eternal about the ocean for me. I can sit for hours on the observation deck, with 360 degrees of water surrounding me and ponder the mysteries of life and read what some other folks have to say about that. Then there’s the whole thing about the water permitting a twelve story ship to float – that thought is for pondering on another day.
Recently we were sailing and made port in Key West, FL, on such a perfect day. Perfect for me because it was warm and sunny and I was on my way to see Ernest Hemingway’s house, and perfect for Bill because there was an art show on Whitehead Street.
While Bill studied the brush strokes and composition of some of the landscape artists, I was totally captivated by the work of this one photographer. Actually, I was just as drawn to the story that inspired the photographs as the photos themselves. It seems this photographer lived next door to a rather cantankerous, elderly woman who didn’t like him or anybody else very much. Early one morning, the photographer took special notice of her antique garden chair and asked to borrow it. He photographed the chair on the beach and gave an enlarged copy of the photo to his neighbor as a gift to thank her for the use of chair. That photo started quite a friendship. After the woman died at age 102, the artist took the chair on a road trip and photographed the chair in all fifty states – in the snow, on a cliff, in a patch of daisies, in a patch of bluebonnets, under a camellia bush—such lovely places. The photographs were striking, but for me it was the story.
The elements of that story reminded me of a children’s song in a musical I wrote a number of years ago. Children can learn anything if you set it to music, and I was attempting to teach how important our actions are and how we cannot control the ripple effect of our choices. The little ditty was entitled “Pebbles in a Pool” and the words to the chorus went like this:
Toss a pebble in a pool and what happens then?
Ripples start to flow again and again.
You can’t stop the ripples – that’s the ripple rule.
So be careful of the pebbles you toss in a pool.
Maybe it was all the water or maybe it was the story or maybe I’m really meandering, just wanting you to ponder with me a few minutes. I don’t imagine the elderly, cantankerous neighbor had any thought when she loaned her chair to her neighbor that her chair would travel through fifty states having its picture taken with those photos now compiled into quite a lovely book. I doubt she had any thought of her antique chair becoming the bridge to a special friendship with her neighbor. Neither can I imagine the photographer having any idea when he picked up an old rusty chair that it would be the starting point of a journey for him. And to think, right there on my way to the Hemingway House on Whitehead Street in Key West, I had the pure delight of hearing the story from the photographer and seeing the chair and such stellar photographs.
We truly don’t know the ripple effect of our choices, do we? Our mindless ones for certain, and most of the time not even our mindful ones. Choices. Ripples.
Now if you were sitting with me at my table, sipping a cup of delicate Darjeeling with one of my famous pound-cake cookies nestled in a rice-paper napkin, we’d have a conversation about ripples and surprises and our choices. We could play the What If? game and come up with an endless number of ripples. But since we can’t do that, maybe you just might leave your own “ripple” story as a comment, or you might think of me with my cuppa tea in hand humming this little earworm that is stuck in my head now—“You can’t stop the ripples, that’s the ripple rule. So be careful of the pebbles you toss in a pool.”
Image: CC Flickr Hiroyuki Takeda