If you ever ride with me in my old beloved Isuzu Trooper, you will notice a small pile of rocks in the front storage pocket.
You might be tempted to think I am a collector of things, much as a ten-year-old will collect rocks, feathers and most anything else that they see. You would be, in a way right, but in a way, wrong as well.
I don’t collect things. I collect peace. Wander into my house and you’ll see a slew of disparate things. There’s a grey and white rock on my bookshelves that came from Merlin’s Cave at the base of Tintagle castle on the west coast of England. There’s a small brass bookmark attached to my desk with Winston Churchill’s quote “Never, Never, Never Give Up.”.
There is a small stuffed Dumbo in my kitchen that reminds me of the time when my kids disliked me, that daily reminded me of when they did once love me. Now that they have come back and come to know me, the little elephant with big ears reminds me of trusting truth, and of the peace and joy I have in their presence.
There are things in frames – a single page of a 15th century manuscript of the Book of Hours that I bought in Stratford Upon Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown, where I once spent that rarest of things, a perfect day. There is a small painting of Venice, bought there, painted from the very place I stood the first day I was there, my soul lost in the magic and beauty of that once only imagined place. There is a picture of the woman I love on my desk.
There are odd things. When my grandfather died, and I was asked for a list of things I might want from his estate, the first thing on my list was a wooden barometer that did not work. But it meant something to me because in all the years I had gone down to Surry County and the farm there, our morning started by checking the old barometer and talking about the weather.
There are things in my garden – lilacs from my aunt Helen, a strange, quirky, wonderful throwback to the Victorian age, whose home in Capron, Virginia I loved. There are forsythia that grew from cuttings from my late father in law’s home, a man whose kindness was, and still is an inspiration to me.
And then there are the rocks in my truck. They came from Cape Cod. I found them along the beach the first day I ever went there, March two, almost three, years ago. I was in turmoil, I had an unfinished book I needed to get out of the way, and could not get over the hump, so I planned a trip alone to a place I had never been. The beaches soothed me.
I had never been much of a beach person growing up. I was more a mountain guy. But suddenly, the very first time I walked out on the sandbars at low tide, I felt everything wash away. None of the issues and craziness of my life had changed. But I had. Cape Cod has since become my place of peace. I go there any chance I get. If I have a few extra dollars, off I go.
And the rocks are my talisman of that peace.
Peace, I have come to understand, comes hard. We live in a world of pressure and anxiety. All the reasons why are an essay by better sociologists than me. The whys matter less than the fact that it is so. Chaos comes easy. Anger comes easy. Worry is around every corner, lurking like a vulture licking its chops. Finding fault comes easy. Cutting each other down comes easy (and thus, so does being cut down.). You don’t have to work at these things. They happen. It’s each to be slowly whittled down by all this stuff that comes so easy, so mindlessly, that we become shells of our best selves.
Peace though, peace takes work. It takes conciousness. We have to look for it. We have to see it. We have to choose it. We have to make decisions and do things and train ourselves to find it. If we don’t, the natural order, which is not a very nice thing, will erode us.
I learned this a decade and a half ago. And like I seem to learn everything, I learned it the hard way. When I did learn it, I began collecting peace. THings that reminded me of peaceful moments. Things that were more than mere reminders, but talismen. Things I could turn to and look at and let the peace of that moment in time wash over me again.
It was work at first. Not hard work, but conscious work. Choices. Habits. Retraining how I think, how I see things, even how I feel. But as my collection grew, it has become less difficult. Peace, finally, is all around me. All I have to do is look and let it come to me.
Even in my old Isuzu Trooper.
Be well. Travel wisely,