My eyes spot a giant pearl, nesting in white gold. It beams like an all knowing lunar orb, looking back as if it sees me. Am I an oyster or a pearl? I wonder. Advertised smart from an online jeweler, I choose the right size, 5.5. I’m really bad about jewelry, losing it, breaking it. I picture wearing it at tradeshows, with French tips, when the appearance of my hands matters. Price differentiates between natural pearls and cultured pearls. Of three tons of harvested oysters, maybe three or four contain this rarity. A string of natural pearls costs hundreds of thousands. Cultivated pearls require help from a farmer by insertion of an irritating nucleus into the oyster—to replicate the precious symbol of sacrifice. I hadn’t given it much thought before my writing demanded it of me. Aren’t all pearls cultivated? Fresh water, or salt—natural or cultured? Doesn’t any oyster work to rid itself of a parasite that doesn’t belong? A deeper thinker may even accept that the foreign body is one to be embraced and reckoned. To not be afraid of the pain, face it head on—look it in the eye. Truth is meant to set us free. So, natural oysters go along, skirted by the tides, doing their jobs, and only a few are chosen to endure a special process—that of crafting a jewel. How are these oysters the lucky ones? Is there some chemistry in the ocean that decides—this one can handle it—some marine biology dictating a capability that other oysters don’t have? An oyster is a small lapidary, churning and yearning for the end—resulting in peace, solace… resolution. The oyster itself polishes a pearl, because it’s worthy of courage. Fearlessness that turns sorrow to joy—pain to relief—fear to love.
I read on to find that there is a second natural oyster that doesn’t receive such glory. Its’ vocation is of a lower calling. It exists to serve the environment outside of itself, cleansing marshland, purifying ocean water, never producing a pearl. It doesn’t lap in a Neptune palisade laboring royal in carved ivory splendor. A bottom feeder, it compares to guys on the lower deck of a luxury liner, sweating beside boilers, working the oars. I’m impressed by both types, like people in a caste system. Synchronism orders a world where facades of kings and queens belie agonizing burdens and impoverished folks seemingly never get a break…a morsel, a crumb.
My fifteen year old daughter peers over my shoulder, as I’m slumped over a laptop, shopping. She says, “That’s what I want for my birthday, as a purity ring.” Ok. Perfect. “You know honey, yours won’t be as expensive.” White, dainty, perched on a thin silver circle, hers nacres with answers to prayers for an eventual husband who elevates her high, like the jewel that she is.
by Susan L. Anderson
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