the wagon

As long as I can remember she’d been towing that same old, dirty rock around–’round and ’round in a rusty wagon. The rims of the tires had worn unevenly, splitting like a horse’s hooves, poorly tended. The wagon-bed, covered with a powdery layer of dirt and little chips of who-knows-what, vibrated as she wandered the streets of our little town. The sound of it hummed out her imminent arrival and rattled on, long after she passed out of sight.

She was a fascination to all of us who watched her from a distance. 

Her clothes, mismatched remnants from the local thrift store, were layered together like the garb of a woman of royal heritage in hiding. How curious to see the the old stone she lugged behind her–how it had gouged out a jagged record of its history across the wagon-bed.

At times, she walked deep in thought.  It appeared she was caught up in a world far, far away.  Often it seemed to weigh heavily upon her; other times, she seemed wild-eyed and looked as if she was enthralled with an alternate universe–perhaps, flying through the outer reaches of the cosmos, watching the meteor showers falling all around her.  I wished I could see those things inside her head.

A few people in town made it a point to interrupt her musings with a tip of the head, a greeting of what a nice day it was or even a kind, “Why, don’t you look especially bright and special today.”  Maybe not in those exact words, but some people have the gift of conveying that, with just a look in their eyes.

It was in these moments her fingers loosened their grip and she let the bent handle of the wagon drop to the ground. Her face brightened and she spoke in an animated way—a queenly heritage flashing from her face.  She would share a story from the paper that had touched her heart—or recount a humorous anecdote about an elderly matriarch who’d recently moved into the nursing home.  Sometimes, a glimpse of nature she’d caught was still fresh in her mind. She would share how beautiful it had seemed to her–like she had seen the world through new eyes.  And she made you see it, too.

What a transformation took place in those moments. A noble sort of beauty spilled all around her, giving us a glimpse into the mysterious world she carried inside.  But eventually her gaze would drift down–across her worn-out sweater and ill-fitting, second-hand pants—slumping upon the sidewalk.  She found the handle lying there.

It was as if there had been a struggle within her soul:  an anxiety that won out when she looked about, finding that  people had moved on, leaving her to estimate her own worth–alone to decide which way she would go.  Wilting slowly,  she’d bend and fumble for the handle.  Lifting it and starting down the road, her face seemed to fade to gray.  With furrowed brow, she dragged the burden—that old, familiar stone—down the street and out of view.

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Any nobility–any bit of uncommon light and goodness hiding there in your life?  The beauty shines out until something pricks your attention: a point of vulnerability, a sense of  inadequacy, a past failure haunting your today. Maybe you’ve made the comparison and fallen short of what you see and admire in others…or have fallen short of your own hopes and expectations.

What is that stone?  What makes you bend and fumble for the handle of powerlessness and retreat?  Whose gaze will draw you back out?  What do you turn to that enables you to let go of the handle?  To walk away from the wagon and unleash your God-given beauty—living strong and free?

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One thought on “the wagon

  1. “Any nobility-any bit of uncommon light and goodness hiding there in your life?” Maybe that would be a good question/greeting instead of “how are you today?”

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