All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography.
More than a half century ago, Father, while in Japan, where he'd been on leave at the close of the Korean War, bought Mother a lustrous, round, classical pearl, perhaps a half inch in diameter—set in a simple four pronged gold ring—which he took home to Mother after completing two years of overseas service.
As a young girl, I was in love with the pearl. It was perfect. It was what I called Grace-Kelly-pearl-perfect. Elegant and royal. What kept me entranced, though, was that the shimmery, cream-tinged pearl was loosely caged by its prongs so that I could gently flick it with my finger and watch it shake in its crown. My magnanimous mother let me wear it on occasion, and I wore it often enough that it became, unofficially, a part of my jewelry collection which, at that time, was comprised entirely of cheap mixed metals, glass, rope and plastic.
On a pretty autumn day after school let out, against my parents wishes, and with pearl ring slipped on finger, I went for a ride on a motorcycle with my then boyfriend. The sun, brilliant, the afternoon, T-shirt-warm and breezy—a perfect day for an Easy Rider freedom spin. We rumbled down the street, circled around the block, and as we reached the midway point back to the old colonial a crazed white dog lunged at the bike, bringing us down against a curb. Then boyfriend was uninjured, as I recall, but my left hand was mangled and bloody. I still have the scars, literally, to prove it.
Back at home, where Mother tended to my wounds, I noticed that the gold ring's pearl had got loose entirely. So, of course, did Mother. Long lectures and the gallows ensued. Father came home and immediately went out in search of the pearl, which, he anticipated, had either been confiscated or lost to the storm drains.
But he found it. Without a blemish, beneath leaves and gravel in the gutter.
Along the Chesapeake Bay last month, Hubby uncovered a tiny, luminous pearl, smaller than the size of the sugar pearls that adorn wedding cakes, in an oyster he was about to consume. We wrapped the pearl in paper towel scrap and brought it home where it was deposited into a small, lopsided, three-footed clay vessel made by Max—in his elementary school days.
This morning, during the little pearl's outdoor photo shoot, I inadvertently knocked the pearl from the black-velvet-swathed teak table on which it sat. Rolling beneath the table and along the deck flooring, it quickly found its escape between the narrow spacing of the decking boards, falling one story to the muddy, mossy, pebble-covered ground below.
Thirty minutes later I had done the impossible: rooted it out.
It turns out, my family is good at hunting down pearls.
The pearl—calcium carbonate-layered grime, slipped between the oyster's mantle and shell—so it is said, has powers such as love, protection and good fortune. It symbolizes purity, wisdom and spiritual transformation. It represents triumph over adversity through transcendence. I'm not sure about that. In my experience, it seems the pearl has been a source of stress. (Or could it be my mishandling of the pearl?) An iridescent souvenir that fights captivity!
Then again, it appears to be more: a reminder to handle with care and consideration those things precious. What can be maimed and scarred when neglected. What we hold close to the mantle. Our gems. Flesh or stone.
Jayne, the first short story I ever wrote was called, The Pearl. It was a tale of a long struggle, which in the end, resulted in the creation of a perfect pearl. I was young when I wrote that story but these many years later I can see that it is so true: with perseverance our greatest struggles often give rise to our greatest strengths.ReplyDelete
I loved your pearl story. You've inspired me.
And I'll bet that was before you'd heard of Steinbeck's The Pearl (that was a dark story), Leah! Your story sound much more inspiring.Delete
Glad you enjoyed this one. I think we all have a pearl of story to tell. ;)
Jayne, this is a Grace-Kelly perfect piece of work. Beguiling, elegantly written, drenched in discovery and implicit tears, it depicts the ineffable joy in falling in love with beauty. I sense a writer being born. xoReplyDelete
Oh, Melissa- This means a great deal to me. Late in life, but who says we can't have new beginnings then? (And I did nearly cry searching for that pearl, as I did your comment, as I do when I read your poems.)Delete
Thank you. :)
you are luuucky!ReplyDelete
No kidding, eh, Ellen? My husband read the piece last night. I hadn't told him about my early morning adventure. He couldn't believe it. He thought there was something in those odds of losing and finding a pearl (twice) that was worthy of more exploration. I think I'll just leave it as is, and be thankful. I dreaded having to explain I'd lost the pearl--that's what I thought about as I searched for it!Delete
lovely, lovely, jayne. all those pearls. very calming compared to your last piece. that one still has me all riled up—thanks a lot!— and got me thinking about the opposite end of the religious spectrum—the ultra, ultra fundamentalists—who are beyond scary with their tactics, too (bra burning never hurt anyone, though. that was a fun thing. i was talking about mean spiritedness.)ReplyDelete
oh my dear, i am being most improper. sorry i didn't comment about that below. i'm in a hurry. i have so much to say but can't say it here.... ; )
Yes, m, I needed a much calmer story today, though I could have done without the pearl drama. Still. It did me this piece, which is funny, as I had planned on writing about the pearl, but had started an entirely different story. So it goes...Delete
Never, never concern yourself about improperness. Here? At SS? No, no. No worries, dear m. ;)
thank you thank you thank you. i love this, from the quote at the start to your final thoughts. it's amazing how words seem to appear just at the time we need to hear them, and i thank you for your words.ReplyDelete
Ah, ecogrrl--I deleted your first comment as it was a duplicate, but from, I see, your old blog. Now I know how to contact you at your new place! Thanks for stopping by, I'd been trying to track you (the old blog is closed), so I'm glad you're here.Delete
And glad this post showed up right in time for you. :)
In place of a gold pronged setting, your new pearl is set in Max's three footed clay vessel. Just as precious.ReplyDelete
My favorite earrings are flat freshwater pearls. Simply elegant and best worn with blue jeans.
Ha! Leonora, funny how things change. I'm always happy to find precious in the simpler things. Those earrings of yours sound lovely. And with blue jeans--even better!Delete
I've done a lot of dumb things but i've never been dumb enough to get on a motorcycle... and in some strange ways this piece pleases the derelict, why i can't quite put my finger on but it does.ReplyDelete
Kono- Haha! Alright, I won't get into a my dog is bigger than your dog exchange with you, but I have to say, I can't believe you weren't dumb enough to get on a motorcycle! Really? I guess maybe I was dumber than I thought. No, actually, I know I was pretty dumb back then. Back in those days being forbidden to do anything was effectively an invitation to try it.Delete
So, yeah, this appeals to the rebel in you, maybe. Although I think it's "rebel light."
Btw- I wouldn't do it now, but I'm glad I rode on that thing. Rode on plenty others, too, but I won't tell my kids (or Mother) about that. ;)
A lovely waltz of a post, carrying us along through loss and retrieval. The pearl has always been a symbol to me of beauty that gives birth to itself through that which intrudes - the grain of sand. I also take from your stories a sense of hope that luminosity, inner light, is not so easily dimmed or misplaced, in spite of ourselves. I could not have hoped for a better start to the day. xoReplyDelete
Oh, yes, "...beauty that gives birth to itself through that which intrudes," that's lovely. And so true- what discomfort the poor oyster has to go through! But remarkable how it comforts itself. Wouldn't I like to just layer myself with waves of iridescence!Delete
I like what you've taken from this, Marylinn. :)
I love pearls. They are so magnificent! I also love the quote at the top.ReplyDelete
Jayne, I enjoyed this story and will savor the thoughts about it all day.
I always say that my kids are the gems in my crown - Like you say, flesh and stone. Awesome!
Me too, Loree. Hubby once gave me some beautiful grey pearls (necklace and earrings), and I haven't worn them in years. Think it's time to pull them out? I don't know, with my track record I'd better let them be. ;)Delete
I love that you put the pearl in Max's work of art! I cherish many many objects in my home which were crafted by the hands of my children. And I believe each piece would be perfectly at home in the company of a pearl.ReplyDelete
Beautiful post, as always.
It's the handcrafted gifts that are the most special. But it's also a challenge to find space for them all! Shouldn't we all have such worries? :)Delete
pearls before swine!ReplyDelete
Yes- absolutely before swine. Er, I think. ;)Delete
Really nice. From the beginning quote to the closing words. Light and honest. But a poignant reminder. Both pearls relationship with the family were conceived in wonder and love. Japan and the Chesapeake. Nurtured in a four prong setting and Max's creation. Through perseverance, love lost and found.ReplyDelete
Wonder and love. I like that, Scott. Perseverance, yes, and utter fear--I did not want to have to explain how I'd lost the pearl! Grace Kelly I am not. ;)Delete
Give me pearls over diamonds any day!ReplyDelete
This is an utterly beautiful and ever so meaningful post Jayne, and a great analogy for life's gems.
We do have to be careful to preserve those things we value most.
"Flesh or stone".
Thank you Rubye! And I agree, the pearl, to me, is so very precious--it's the story of self-preservation--how a creature deals with discomfort. Remarkable I think. :)Delete
When I was a kid, we used to dive after freshwater shells in the river. Never found any pearls in any of them >;)ReplyDelete
Cold As Heaven
You never know, Cold... Oh, those must have been some cold waters!Delete
The water gets warm enough to swim in summer. Worse for the shells that have to live in the water all year >:)))Delete
this is a pearl of a story, if you can forgive the pun. i felt the pain of the loss and thrill of the recovery - both times! you do appear to have a relationship with this gem that deserves attention. how interesting to learn all those things that pearls represent. i do recall that it has an association with the name margaret as well.ReplyDelete
Bring on the puns! Mother would love that. Yes, I have to laugh thinking about the sort of relationship I have with it.Delete
I skipped over to Wiki to check out the "Margaret" association. The name is "derived from the Greek word margarites meaning pearl." I have a niece named Margaret, and I wonder if my sister is aware of the association. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Amanda. :)
I was enthralled by this story, from the first pearl of thought to the final. What a gifted story teller you are.ReplyDelete
Bill- Enthralled. I'm delighted. I was happy (and sort of, well, embarrassed) to share it. ;)Delete
Wow...this was a beautifully written snapshot...i like the past and present being tethered by the constant presence of the pearl...ReplyDelete
as an aside..i ate a pearl once..well not on purpose, i just felt it slip down my throat as i gobbled down a freshly picked oyster from a rockpool...it freaked me the truck out, so much so ive never eaten another oyster in my life
You at a pearl, Dan! I can kind of picture that--helluva way to lose a pearl (before you new you even had it). :(Delete
I love the ocean flavor of fresh oysters, but their consistency troubles me, so I don't often indulge. Usually, it's when Hubby overdoes it and can't clean his plate. Heh!
lol. the demise of the pearl reminds me of how many of my boys' baby teeth I have lost then found. And sometimes to lose again. Glad you came by to visit me, been a while! ?ReplyDelete
Sandra- That's funny! I think I kept only one tooth per child, and I don't even remember where I stored them. When it comes time to move, and it will, eventually, I think I'm going to be surprised by what I find as I clean house. Things I've long forgotten, for sure. ;)Delete
You need to put these (however desperate, panicky) bloodhound skills to commercial use, you know. When I'm parceling out The Missus's and my morning meds each day, I sometimes drop one of the tiniest ones. This alarms me because I think The Pooch will discover it -- at only 5 pounds, who knows what effect even a vitamin would have on her?!? -- but I almost as often cannot find the thing I've dropped. And I don't even have the "gap in the decking" excuse. Maybe it would help if I thought I'd dropped a pearl.ReplyDelete
Anyway, point being: I'm probably not the only fumblethumbs who'd pay for an expert at crawling around on her hands and knees, sifting through cruft, and finding lost valuables.
On the other hand, I'm also probably not the only one who'd pay to read soul-stirring accounts of such a person's adventures, written in prose that tends to shame those of us who've been lucky enough ever to have been paid for our own writing.
So, maybe it's a push. Yeah. I'll stick with your Soliloquies, Suburban or otherwise. Thanks, always, for the great reads here.
Haha! JES- what an image. In the case of the missing pearl, I have to admit, the imagery is fairly accurate! I share your meds story, too. My problem, more often, though, is that I forget if I've taken them (like this morning's allergy elixir) and am then afraid to overdose if I double up--so I end up taking nothing. (Which, by mid-day, I've figured out.) But little pills often do end up on the floor, blending in with whatever else is down there--I'd be doubly concerned if I had little creatures prowling the floors (as I once did), but mine are too tall and lazy now to bother. ;)Delete
Oh, let me tell you, my soul did stir when that baby rolled off the table--followed by some sort of atrial fibrillation. Something like that, yup, that's enough to make you write. Figuring out a way to get paid for it, that's a whole other thing. Anyway, I relish giving it away. :)
and your parents, loving and tending. and you, tending and caring. the way life is linked is not always apparent. sometimes a pearl or two appears to show us these links. way cool.ReplyDelete
Ah, Sherry, absolutely. I'm feeling, at least of late, like I need a whole lot more pearls to show themselves. ;)Delete
Loved your story, Jayne. Your Dad and I spent a day together in Tokyo shopping for presents for your Mom way back in 1955. I don't remember the pearl ring though. Love to your mother.ReplyDelete
Your second cousin, Janet
Jan- What a pleasant surprise to see you here! I'd forgotten that Cliff was in Japan, too. That must have been an exciting, albeit, probably a bit worrisome, time for you. The war had ended though, and and I imagine anxiety levels were greatly lowered.Delete
I think my dad got the pearl ring in Kyoto. In Tokyo, though, he may have bought other items for my mother. She received several beautiful gifts from him. She has a gorgeous red lacquered jewelry box, kimono, Gita sandals, porcelain and other trinkets from Japan. I'll bet you played a big hand in picking out those treasures.
Thank you, Jan, for stopping by and leaving a note. :)
Luminous writing- like I've just found a pearl! :-)ReplyDelete
Thank you, dear Lily. The joy of finding pearls. ;)Delete