i was part way through a long walk this evening when i passed a walnut shell. it was a perfect half, clean cut where the seam had been and hollowed out pristinely. i was instantly taken back to my childhood when my mom would take me to the hobby store and let me choose tiny trinkets to put in walnut shell halves. i’d build little worlds (hearts and cupids drowning in elmer’s glue for valentine’s day, deer and tiny trees amongst moss for winter, chicks and eggs in grass for spring...you get the idea) in the nut shells then attach ribbons to the outside and tie them above so we could hang them off hooks in the house. my favorite walnut shell world consisted of a blue satin fabric scrap, tucked tightly in the shell and holding a teeny tiny naked baby. i gave it to one of our family friends at her baby shower and felt proud every year when she hung it on her christmas tree.
the hardest part of making these creations was fastening the ribbon so the shell world would hang right side up. when i didn’t master this element, the tiny universes became utterly precarious. sometimes, if i hadn’t attached things well enough, we’d find deer and chicks and cupids lying on the floor below. when this happened, i’d find myself worrying about the baby.
for some reason, as i walked by that shell tonight, the thought hit me that we all feel as though life is precarious from time to time. no matter the size or toughness or gender or whatever other identifier of the human, everyone faces the fears and realities of falling at times. we don’t always feel securely attached, grounded, or certain of our standing. life is challenging and we are aware of the instability of our places upon the earth.
yes, there are soft surroundings and safe landings. yes, there is beauty in the actual precariousness that is life. yes, there are things we can do to make sure that we are growing in healthy, attached, secure ways. there are Higher Powers and Love that hold us tight no matter what. these things are not, however, what i want to point us to today.
what i want to direct us to is the fragility that we all face as humans. regardless of our awareness or expression of it, there are times when each of us feels afraid, untethered, and vulnerable. like that baby in the walnut shell hanging on my friend’s tree, we face times where we know that all it would take is one person to brush the branch in the wrong way and it’s game over. while it’s important not to treat our selves or others more gingerly than is called for, there are times when nothing relieving and grace giving than naming the precarious nature of the branches that we all sit upon.
i received a beautiful etsy order today. the artist threw in a gift to compensate for the double shipping i had unwittingly paid. “be courageous - be kind” is the message hand scripted on the card. receiving this felt like further reinforcement of the message the walnut shell reminded me of. it takes courage to be kind. to be bossy, certain, right-every-time, or indifferent in relation to others is easy. it takes bravery, however, to extend open interest to another, to own that we have absolutely no idea what kinds of difficulties others have faced, and that the burdens others bear may be completely invisible to us. kindness says, “because we are human i know that we are both ‘sitting in a walnut shell and hanging by a string,’ so to speak. due to this precarious reality, i will do my best to treat both my self and your self with care. we may not agree or sit together with ease, but we each have a place and that place is held best when we are all right side up and intact, with no one having fallen, left alone on the ground.”
as we live into a year of politics and self promotion, virtual landscapes offering real relationship and social networks that can harbor love or interpersonal violence may we keep close at heart the shared fragility of our neighbors and friends. may we relate to all out of mutual respect, remembering to be courageous and, mostly, kind.