Sunday, January 29, 2006

Past, Future, Present

Back in August, I got this brilliant idea. I started gathering buttons, beads, marbles and store-bought polished stones for a project. What I wanted to do was have one button, bead, marble or store-bought stone to represent each of the months I have lived so far. I wanted a visual picture of how much of my life I have already spent. And so I reduced my life to this: a collection of buttons, beads, marbles, store-bought stones, and two glass pebbles, one with the word peace on it and one with the word trust on it.

In September, while waiting for Hurricane Rita to do her thing, I was in front of my grandparent’s house picking up small pebbles and putting them in a old enamel pot I’d found on my grandfather’s abandoned work shelf. This was the second phase of the project, to gather enough rocks to represent whatever balance of life I might hope for. Did I mention that I am turning fifty in February? Honestly, my problem is not that I am aging. It is that I don't feel my foundation is as strong as it should be at this stage in my life, for a variety of reasons. I am not yet ripe enough to be fifty!

I thought I might reasonably aspire to make it to eighty-three years of age. That would mean another thirty-three years of living, if the good Lord was willing and the creek didn’t rise. Thirty-three years, the same number of years that Christ had here on earth. Time enough to do something. I figured if I got more time, it would be lagniappe. As it turned out, I did not count my rocks as I gathered them and only ended up with enough to make it to eighty-two years and eight months. And in typical fashion, I am not the least bit concerned about that right now. (Thirty-two years is a long time! But fifty years flies by. How can that be?)

I thought the rocks would be a fitting representative for the remaining months of my life. There is that story on someone’s blog of rocks with the verse from Samuel that says “the Lord has been good to us thus far” written on them as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. There is the story of “Much-Afraid” in the book Hind’s Feet on High Places, who gathered rocks to remind her of the Shepherd’s tender care for her. There were the rocks that were gathered in the Old Testament to mark the Holy places where God met man. I have always been somewhat of a rock gatherer.

My plan was that on the eighth day of the month I would toss another rock into the vase and I would take some time to evaluate my previous month of life and see what I did well, and where I needed to improve how I spent the rest of my days. I would make whatever adjustments I needed to make. So far, I have been faithful to toss the rock into the vase, but I have all kinds of excuses for not looking at how I have spent my days.

And I reduced my future to an old enamel pot filled with rocks.

Later on, at home, I found an old and blackened fifty-cent piece that I thought would be appropriate to toss into the vase on my actual fiftieth birthday in February. And then I realized, as I held it in my hand, all I really have is this, the present moment, an epiphany that was further hammered home by the unexpected death of my uncle in December.

This, the present moment, is all I have. If I waste it, I can’t get it back.


  1. Oh annie....I so love that concept. You have such value.

  2. Isn't it crazy how we think of ourselves as the accumulation of where we have been and what we endured rather than who we are right now in this moment? The future is not ours. We don't own our next breath. But who we are now, that we can control (to the extent that we can control anything).

  3. a note from a fellow collector of rocks...feathers, shells, etc's......all of which I thought when I found them were gifts from God. It has never occured to me to "number" my days, but I really think you are on to something here...thanks for the great and thoughtful post, as usual.

  4. Great post. I love to read what you are thinking.

  5. Don't know the year of your fifty cent piece, but a little girl's gift to me turned out to be dated 1964, the year the wife and I were married. It also turned out to be one that is 90% silver, shined up beautifully, and is about to be turned into a necklace for about $20. As far as the rocks, I like the idea. There's more than one way to build one of those Old Testament altars, more than one way to give thanks for what we have received........

  6. I know I'm really late on this, Annie, but it was a wonderful post. The thing about rocks is that they connect you with the earth and the earth connects you with G-d. It may be a custom for many besides the Jews, but whenever you would visit a cemetary, you would always leave a rock at the site you visited. I always loved that ritual... yes, there was someone here today.


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