Once upon a time, on a busy beach, there pottered a tiny girl, all alone. Unheeded amongst the rocks, with a bright red bucket, she flitted from pool to pool, lingering and marvelling at what she saw.
She carefully collected curiosities to gaze at. Shells and shrimp, jeweled seaweed and stones. She didn’t yet know how to protect and keep them safe, only that she loved them – creating her own magical world in her little red bucket.
Proudly, she tottered back to her grown ups with her little red bucket full of wondrous things.
‘Look!’ she declared, breathy with awe and holding out the bucket with both arms.
Her grown ups looked, but they couldn’t see. They peered into the bucket, and only seeing their reflection gazing back, they turned away, disinterested. They had seen their face every day in the bathroom mirror, but they could not see past their noses to the wonders beneath. Disappointed and dejected, the little girl sagged.
Yet wonder and love are never lonely for long. Nearby, a kindly gentleman watched and called to the little girl.
‘What do you have there?’ he inquired with twinkling eyes.
Warily, she held out her red bucket and unthinkingly upended it, tipping the contents onto the sand. Perhaps she feared this grown up would also not see beneath the surface, and she would feel lonely again.
The water disappeared through the gaps in the grains of sand, and the marvellous things lay exposed and vulnerable – some of them flapping – on the wet sand at their feet.
As quick as a flash, the elderly man bent down, gathered up the things in the little red bucket and ran to the sea to collect the water they needed to breathe. The little girl watched as he showed her how to tend and care and protect the things she loved so much.
‘So that’s how you do it,’ she thought. The little girl smiled and let out a long breath. She felt reassured that someone else saw what she did.
Years later, that girl, no longer a child, still visits the beach and peers into pools; she knows how to look beyond the surface, past her own face staring back and into the depths below.
These days, she’s discovered other collections in pools beyond the beaches, in different places altogether, in the eyes and words and minds of people. She notices things most people don’t even know are there.
Then, she holds the wondrous things she finds and cares for them a little while, in her little red bucket, before carefully laying them back where they belong. And life is richer for it.
She can see, and she understands, and she loves what is there.
Long may we wander and wonder.