We were shivering in our ski jackets on the beach that cold January day as I walked a stretch of the Connecticut coast with my son, David, and his family. 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 was bouncing his seat-less bike from one precarious, precipitous perch to another.
We stopped and stared. He was focused, concentrating, balancing with grace on giant, formidable rocks. 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 searched for seashells and driftwood in the sand. 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?”
“To be a better man!” he answered without hesitation.
Hannah blinked. Then she said, “God bless you!”
“I’m a stuntman,” he explained. “Just came out here to practice.”
He returned to his strength, agility, and balancing-act. Hannah and I enjoyed the show a few moments longer then hurried to catch up with the family. But the image of someone accomplishing what seemed impossible—with apparent ease and grace—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. I dreamed of writing a book. But to my child mind that seemed impossible. How could anyone choose and balance and fit together so perfectly that many words, make characters and places come alive, 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 God does. And people do … create stories and poems and write books.
Life taught me, just as the stuntman on the boulders had no doubt learned, that creative achievement requires diligence, work, and passion.
The time came when I was preparing my first book for publication. It felt like trying to balance two narrow wheels on rugged, slippery boulders. I felt dizzy with inadequacy. One night, as deadlines approached, I cried to my husband, “This is too hard.” He just hugged me and prayed for me.
Next morning I woke with new courage. The book came to be and has found readers—opening windows of possibilities in minds and hearts around the world.
The stuntman probably started working his bike on the pebbly beach and the winding, uneven trail before he tried to mount and negotiate boulders. Similarly, if you have the passion and the vision, then the steps to carry 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, to watch birds and collect seashells, and to speak and write from the heart.
Photo by Catherine Lawton