Begging a Pearl

18 Dec

Seawater begs the pearl to break its shell — Rumi

After I arrived in Ocracoke, one of the things I began a quest for was oysters. It’s December and near Christmas and I just had a craving that would not go away. However, the Ocracoke Fish and Seafood Company was closed, and the grocery store was curiously devoid of any seafood, except for frozen fish sticks. I understood there wouldn’t be much available. With the town being as deserted as it is, I was lucky to find anything available in the one open store. Monday, when I was checking out with a few items, I asked the cashier, Debbie, about oysters and she gave me Ikey’s number. After a call, days of rain and finally a break and a catch,  he rolled into my drive yesterday afternoon with an enormous bag of fresh oysters. I smiled and paid him and then promptly panicked.

Oh…..my…god. That’s a butt load of oysters. Well, let’s do this, I thought. I attempted to dive into shucking the whole half bushel.

I had never attempted this sort of task and had nothing but Internet instructions and a newly purchased shucking knife. After cutting and prying seven or so, I was so done.

I had literally 50 to 60 to go.

The process was not as simple as ehow.com led me to believe, but I did learn quite a few lessons in the attempt. And it might just help me understand something personally important, about boundaries. I have been an open book most of my life and it has caused me quite a bit of pain. In being consistently open and overly trusting, others have banged and bruised my interior needlessly to the point that in part, this time away was a bit about me needing to form some new understanding of how to emotionally connect with others and still be able to keep myself whole. The battle with these oysters taught me about the preciousness of my own emotional well being.

The shells were covered in algae and mud, barnacled and sharp. Hinge…where’s the hinge? “Hold it with the towel and insert the knife into the hinge and cut around the edge”. Mostly that just yielded a muddy mess with broken top shell, cut thumbs, and severed oyster. Sandy, muddy mess. So the only thing to do was to scrub the oyster, clean it as well as I could and then put it in a pot and steam it.

After two whole pots worth, I still had a half cooler full and I gave up and took the rest to one of the neighbors. But I learned something really useful: the tighter the shell, the better the oyster. The little ones gave up so easily, opening to heat and pressure. But they shriveled into tiny stiff nuggets of rubber that Clarence wouldn’t even eat. However, the big ones, the ones that barely opened in the high heat of a pot, gave just enough of an edge for me to put in the tips of my sore scratched fingers and with gentle pressure they would pop open and inside would be a barely cooked beauty. Still trembling, curled slightly on the edges, these taught me the tighter the shell, the more precious the interior.

But it also taught me that in a way, sometimes shells can be too tight. The ones that never opened at all, they were dead inside and had to be discarded. This lesson has me thinking on how to balance the shell surrounding my emotional self, how to still open and connect, but yet, not so easily as to sacrifice my inner preciousness. I am a bit nervous about going home. I need to keep a balanced shell. But I have to remind myself of the lessons I have learned this week.

#1 Love is simple

#2 Connection is the gift of the Universe

My most authentic self is that precious oyster inside and if I choose to yield, it must be cautiously and carefully, but worth the fingers to which I am yielding. I need to listen to my inner voice. It tells me where I need to go. Today, I am busied with trying to figure out finances and lightly packing. I go to Trivia Night with Kenny tonight and maybe in connecting with my new friend I will find more of what I have been looking inside this shell.

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