This story is by Tricia Schimpp and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Anna stood motionless in the hallway, trapped by eyes staring at her from all angles, feeling their piercing sight go right through her. She stared back at bold colored faces filling the canvases of huge paintings hanging on faded walls of the old Victorian house. Large abstract faces with profound eyes. There would be no hiding here. She came to seek advice from the artist, a blind psychic.
Anna slipped her hand into her pocket and felt the comforting contours of a small rock, her inseparable companion. It’s okay. She was here to open up. She had pretended to her family to be happy long enough. Now she wanted to face the truth. When a friend told her about a blind psychic who had a reputation for helping people to see their lives in new ways, Anna made the call.
She snapped to at the sound of a creaking door. A small, white haired woman emerged.
“Can I make you some tea?” Claire leaned on her cane towards Anna, offering a reassuring smile.
“Oh, that sounds good,” Anna had never been to a psychic before, let alone a blind one. A bit nervous about what Claire would see, Anna could not help but look into Claire’s eyes. Eyes that could not see.
Anna followed Claire into her kitchen where sunlight streaked through a large window. As Claire prepared the tea, pouring precise amounts of water measured with her fingers, Anna looked outside to a flower filled garden. It stirred a longing in her heart.
“Nice, isn’t it? I spend a lot of time out there.” Claire handed her a cup of tea.
“It’s beautiful.” Anna took the cup, wondering how Claire knew what she was looking at. She accepted that this blind woman knew exactly what she was doing.
“Now, tell me about you,” Claire motioned for Anna to join her at a small table by the window.
Claire listened intensely as Anna delved into her unhappy marriage that was headed for certain divorce. Just recently, both her teenage son and daughter had let their mother know they knew she was not happy. Could she continue to pretend to all that she was happy when she knew they knew, she absolutely was not? She hoped Claire could help her find the right answers.
Anna felt into her pocket and pulled out the rock. It was heart shaped with a crack down the middle on one side.
“I have a rock. It has a broken heart…” Anna stopped, unable to continue, unable to find words to express what was troubling her so deeply.
“May I see it?” Claire held out her hands.
Anna carefully placed the heart rock into Claire’s old hands and watched her carefully feel it with her fingers. Claire held the rock for a long time without saying a word.
“I have a friend who seems to understand what I am going through. He is easy to talk to. He loves outdoor adventure. We seem to have a lot in common. I miss that in my marriage.” Anna hesitated, grappling with the real possibility that she might do something she considered so wrong. “Do you see me becoming involved with this man?”
There. It tumbled out.
Claire held the rock as if feeling its energy. “Would that make you happy?”
Anna sat back. Of course not. Finding another relationship was not the answer. “No.” She looked to Claire, desperate to hear the right answer.
“Anna, this heart rock is not broken. It has a crack in it, but it is not broken. Feel it.” Claire put the rock into Anna’s hands and pressed her wrinkled hands around Anna’s.
Then, Claire painted a vision. “I see you outside in your own garden with a drum. You walk around and connect with all of its natural elements with the music and rhythm you make with the drum. Your spirit becomes healed as you become one with nature. You are a creature of the earth and your heart yearns to be reconnected with nature.”
Claire nailed it! Anna was speechless.
Claire pressed Anna’s hands around the rock and listened, as if she could hear Anna’s thoughts.
Anna’s mind whirled. What was so missing in her married life was fulfilling her passion for wilderness adventures which had been so much a happy part of her childhood. She grew up with a dad who took her on many adventures into nature where he told her immense stories of his wilderness experiences when he was stationed in raw Greenland during World War II, serving as a search and rescue sergeant. As war planes flew in to refuel on their way to Europe, some missed the airstrip and had to be rescued on harsh terrain; from frozen tundra to steep mountains to moving glaciers. Through the outdoor adventures with her dad and his stories, Anna felt connected to the wilderness.
Anna remembered taking her dad’s hand as they looked out a large window on the top floor of the hospital while doctors studied his x-rays. She followed her father’s gaze to the vast forest in the distance. Wild outside. So many cherished memories.
“Look out there Anna. It would drive you nuts if you could not be out there.” He squeezed her hand, staring outside, accepting his fate.
He left her with a gift. She often took her children into nature. The wilder, the better. They loved those wild adventures. It did not stop there. She took friends wilderness backpacking. She took her at-risk high school students wilderness backpacking. She watched transformation happen in people because of the wilderness experience. She suddenly realized she was passing on the gift.
Now, Anna thought about joy. There was joy missing in her relationship with her husband, but… there was genuine joy present in her life, joy she found when she shared wilderness adventures with others. Missing in her marriage was an unashamed freedom to follow her own passion for wilderness adventure, even if alone. She faced the truth knowing she must make a decision.
“I have a friend who can make you a drum. He found a dead elk recently. The drum will be made from the elk. The power of the elk spirit is connected to everything in the universe and will give you the freedom you need to live as an integral part of nature,” Claire said as she continued to hold Anna’s hands.
Elk skin drum. A key to the vast connections of the universe!
Anna knew she would be moved by its spirit. A spirit that would give constant inspiration as a member of the natural world. A spirit she so desperately needed to embrace to live her own life with happiness.
She squeezed Claire’s hands. “Yes, oh yes!”
# # #
Anna stood on the Pacific Ocean’s edge, alone, with only the forces of nature present. She carried two treasures with her, the heart rock and the elk skin drum. She found a small tidal pool containing many rocks, but large enough to hold one more.
Perfect. Anna placed her heart rock in the pool of clear ocean water. Wave after wave rushed in and out, rippling over the rocks, singing cosmic music of the universe.
Now was the time. Anna stood by the tidal pool and began to beat her drum to the rhythm of the waves moving back and forth over the rocks. Beat after beat, she reverberated in the harmonious union experienced by the rocks and tides.
She stopped just before sunset and looked into the tidal pool where all of the rocks glowed with reflected light. Like a beautiful painting composed of individual elements, all were essential, connecting each to the spirit of the whole.
Anna reached into the cool water and felt the shapes of the rocks with her fingers. Rocks, sand, pounding surf, setting sun over an endless sea, open sky to the great beyond. With new insight, Anna saw herself as much of the same interconnected universe as each of those rocks. She smiled as she remembered a quote by John Muir.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
Alive in the boundless connection to the universe, Anna knew what she needed to be happy. It was her freedom to be connected to the wilderness, connecting her and everything to the entire universe and beyond.
Anna picked up her heart rock. Small granules of sea sand had collected in the crack. It was on the mend. She felt her own wounded heart healing. She knew the decision she now made gave her unbound freedom to be true to herself and live her life with happiness. Holding her dear heart rock close to her heart, and with a smile on her face, she threw it with all her might into the outgoing sea.