We shivered in ski jackets on the beach in January. With my son David and his family, I was walking a stretch of Long Island Sound’s northern shore.
A shrub-lined, curving trail took us over a hill and down upon a tumble of boulders, where we met an unexpected sight: a fit young man bouncing his seat-less bike from one precarious, rocky perch to another. He was focused, concentrating, balanced in spite of what seemed insurmountable odds. To the music of salty wind, lapping waves, laughing children, and calling gulls, he worked silently.
David continued up the trail with binoculars, intent on birding. The children explored shells and driftwood. My daughter-in-law, Hannah, and I stood watching the cyclist.
He hopped off his bike and looked our way.
Hannah called to him, “Are you training for something?”
Without hesitation he answered, “To be a better man!”
Taken aback briefly, Hannah blinked then said, “God bless you!”
“I’m a stuntman,” he explained. “Just came out here to practice.”
He returned to his balancing-act practice. Hannah and I enjoyed the show a few moments longer then hurried to catch up with the family. But the image of someone accomplishing—with apparent ease and grace—something that to me seems impossible, has stayed with me.
Like my grandchildren, since childhood I’ve loved exploring beaches, forests, rivers and meadows. In those places my imagination soared. If I had a book with me, all the better. Good stories opened a world of possibilities. Early I dreamed of writing a book myself. But in my child mind it seemed impossible. How could anyone choose and balance and fit together so perfectly that many words, to make characters and places come alive, to create meaning so believable and absorbing? To me such a process held as much mystery as the thought of God creating the flowers in the meadow and the fish in the creek. But he did. And people do.—They create stories and poems and write books.
I found out later in life, just as the stuntman on the boulders had no doubt learned, that such talent and achievement requires diligence, work, and passion.
Years ago, as I was preparing my first book for publication, I felt as if I was trying to balance two narrow wheels on steep, slippery boulders, and I felt dizzy and inadequate. One night, as deadlines approached, I cried to my husband, “I can’t do it! This is too hard.” He just hugged me and prayed for me.
The next morning I woke with new courage. The book came to be and has found readers—opening windows of possibilities to those readers—around the world.
The stuntman probably started bouncing his bike on the pebbly beach and the uneven, rocky trail before he tried to mount boulders. If you have the passion and the vision, then the way of carrying out that vision will come clear. Maybe not all at once or as easily and quickly as you would like; but the path will open to you and the grace will come, as you practice, learn, and keep trying.
Along the way you will have the opportunity to pursue an even greater purpose. Like the stuntman on the beach, you can say, “Yes, I’m in training—to be a better person”: a person who listens to the wind, takes time to dream, look for birds and seashells, and speak from the heart.
Photo by Catherine Lawton