It’s been a difficult year. Humanity is both in mourning and in turmoil. But there is something we all need to remember. It comes whispering from great bodies of water, salty and fresh, hidden inside the shell of one of the tiny wonders in the world. Here at Timeless Pearl, we’d like to inject you with the pearls of wisdom that oysters send us every day as they labor unperturbed, unaware, not thinking of the future or the past, simply the present task at hand. We draw on the wisdom of these interesting creatures of the ocean, but also on the tales of people that have lived their life like a pearl, of which we’ve written the past year in our series, Living Like a Pearl. May it give you the strength and inspiration you need to face a year in which all of us are well aware that we have no idea what lies ahead.
If a pearl was an easy thing to create, would we treasure them so? It’s no secret that when things are easy, we don’t really regard them with respect. Perhaps this is why people regard the book of Patience Gray, Honey from a Weed, so highly. The knowledge within is from a lifetime of learning to eat well despite hardship. For example, in WWII, she kept herself and two children alive by foraging for berries and other things to eat in a pine forest. But her most formative food years are the years spent with her sculptor husband in the Mediterranean, where she learned to forage and cook like the local, quite poor, people. For over twenty years they survived on very little, learning to cook up a feast from things as basic as the bones of a scraggly hen and a harvest of seasonal mushrooms – making each delicious meal an achievement in itself. What’s more, like an oyster learns how to make better pearls as it ages, her food became better and better, until it left the world her pearlescent book about cooking that takes humans back to the very basics of eating and teaches us to embrace hunger in order to eat well. Read more about Patience Gray’s remarkable life here.
Like a pearl gets a whole life of its own when the oyster is done with it, so the products of human suffering are often in service to a much greater good – sometimes bigger than we can imagine or understand. A pearl may land in a jewelry factory, or perhaps on a string of heirloom pearls where it will adorn the necks of generations of women. It may sit in the crown of a royal or hang on the arm of a young girl just turned 16. Or maybe it will be on the ear of a lady who is painted by Johannes Vermeer and become famous as the pearl in Girl with the Pearl Earring.
It’s much the same as the book that the famous environmentalist Rachel Carson labored at with every last ounce of energy she had. Her final book, Silent Spring, resulted in an environmental revolution, an awakening to the role the ocean plays in our world – and we in it. It led to the creation of environmental laws and inspired many to change their ways and fight for more such laws – long after Carson had passed away. Read more about her work here and know: if you are suffering to get through something, there is often a great life, a bigger meaning, lying in wait beyond this.
Oysters don’t look like much. Darkish, dappled and uneven shells, who would know what lies inside? But reach deep inside and what emerges is pure, radiant beauty.
Diana Spencer may have been beautiful, but there was a time that common opinion was that her fairytale life had ended. Royal life, along with her marriage, was over. Her husband admitted publicly, embarrassingly, that he had had an affair. She struggled with eating disorders and self-confidence. And the media feasted on any mistake they could find. But it was exactly then that she reached inside to find happiness and fulfilment that could not be described as anything other than beautiful. The risks she took and for which she was criticized so publicly could not have been easy. Walking through a minefield in Angola, hugging Aids and leprosy patients while the world was scared of them, working secretly with a journalist to have a chance at telling her story in her own words and hiring a voice coach to improve her public speaking voice – she just kept working at the pain until she emerged as an even more brilliant pearl than people had thought her to be. Read more about it here.
The determination of an oyster is real: if they stop layering the bead inside their shell and allow it to fester, they may die. What they don’t know – but what we learn from them – is that the bigger that irritating bead they face, the bigger the pearl that emerges.
Bette Davis failed her first screen test, failed to impress in the second one, got left at the train station because the person from the film studio who had to pick her up ‘didn’t see anyone who looked like an actress,’ made six unsuccessful films in her first year and then got fired. But by the time Bette Davis passed away at the age of 81, she was known as one of Hollywood’s classic actresses, with two Oscars to her name and the honor of being the first woman to receive a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute. She even had a song named after her. If there’s anyone to teach us that determination and hard work can eliminate what seems to us very large obstacles, it’s Davis. Read more about her here.