I’ve never been into symbolism, but I have slowly gathered meaningful pendants and charms that I wear on a necklace and bracelets. Each has its own story. Today, I’ll start with my South Tahitian pearl. During this past frigid winter that introduced the term “polar vortex” into our lives, I slipped away for a few weeks of warmth. My first stop was Tahiti, where I spent some time in solitude, pondering life. So that is where I’ll begin.
I sat, alone, on the balcony of a bungalow in Moorea that reached over the water, supported by a foundation of poles that disappeared into the water and sand below. South Pacific — One more check on my bucket list. I fingered the smooth, imperfect pearl on a chain around my neck. Rolling it between my fingers intricately to become familiar with its deviations as I drew parallels to beauty despite the imperfections of life. Wind howled through the South Pacific mountainsides and rushed across the surface of the ocean. It was noisy despite the calm that was displayed.
Palm fronds rustled on the bungalow’s roof and wind touched my face. Salt air rushed across my skin as I took in the wonders of the Pacific. Clouds gathered at the horizon, hovering to mask and shape the brilliant sunset. Dogs barked in the distance. Birds cawed and warned of the coming night. A rooster crowed, defying the myth of only crowing at daybreak . Headlights, in-congruent with the remoteness of the surroundings, popped in and out of view as cars circled the island on a road with ocean on one side and a rapidly rising mountain on its other.
Ocean water flowed quickly as the peaceful depths hid fish in the coming night. Two large sting rays glided by gracefully, their lovely gray fins floating through the water. Fish scattered as two sharks approached, circling in a deceptively calm nature, their soft gray color illuminated by a light under the deck. Night-time was almost upon me – the girl with the imperfect Tahitian pearl on a chain around her neck. The girl whose life had been ingrained with a thirst for travel despite many odds.
The surface of the pearl became more and more familiar even as the foreign feel of Pacific air, sounds, and fading light enticed my senses. Twinkling lights of civilization betrayed the remoteness of a vast ocean and isolated island. Mountains jutted high in the sky, contrasting with the flatness of a seemingly endless ocean. The water’s surface varied from still to rippled, with no visible logic for the difference in movement. Pockets of floating sea weed were pulled gently by the tide. The jagged yet flowing beauty of my surroundings reminded me of the intricacies of life and its ups and downs.
The value of a South Pacific pearl is measured by its roundness, size and darkness in color. The world gives a monetary value to the pearl based on these criteria. I had gone into the store and asked to see the cheapest pearl in the store. Not the huge and long strands in the window. Not the pearls intricately surrounded by diamonds. The clerk, after resigning herself to the fact that mine would not be a large purchase, pulled a tray of pearls from deep within a drawer. On it were the imperfect and undesirable pearls.
In several shades of grey, various shapes, ridged or oblong, the tray looked sad compared to the beautiful jewelry that filled the store. I looked in the top left corner of the tray at the cheapest pearl in the store. That was the one I wanted. It was beautiful in my eyes. Medium gray, ridged at the top with a polished shine. Taken out of the environment of competition in the store, it now lives gracefully on my travel necklace, sharing top billing with treasures from abroad. I love it.
God loves each of us too. Based on His criteria, not ours. He reaches deep into the folds of his sheep to love the imperfect, specifically those who feel undeserving. He reaches past the seemingly perfect sheep to touch those with feelings of unworthiness in their hearts and minds. He sees beauty in each and every sheep in his flock.
I sat outside the bungalow and fingered my new pearl that, to me, represented hardship that brought beauty. It began as an irritant in a living oyster, possible as small as a grain of sand. The oyster learned to live with it by laying shell material until the pearl became tolerable and smooth. It represented faith that God carries me through rough waters, smoothing my rough edges as needed. I looked at the beauty of the tiny corner of the world that I was in and felt the love of God, and relaxed deeply into my surroundings.