Reub's journey

13 May 2014

Small finds

 I was walking the dogs in the woods the other day when I found a nice, usable pencil.  The pleasure of finding a pencil in an unexpected place brought back a vivid memory from when John and I were in Afghanistan, long before the troubles of 9-11 and the rise of the Taliban.


 We were Peace Corps English teachers in a northern village located far from any other westerners, and it was Christmas Eve. We had decided to throw a party for an Afghan family that we knew well (and yeah, this is not something a foreigner would likely do in a conservative Islamic country now.) Back then it was primarily a chance for us to sit around the string of lights we'd found and not be alone on such a major holiday. It was an opportunity to shower their kids with handfuls of small things we'd bought in the village bazaar: nuts, candy, a few plastic toys, and....

...gasp...a yellow #2 pencil...for little dark-eyed Jamila. 
  
She squealed with such delight that you would have thought she'd been presented with a pony: A pencil!! A pencil!!! I got a pencilllll!! 

That was the best party I've ever known, the moment of a little girl's great joy at something so small, encapsulated forever in my mind.


Before the dog walk ended, I had found a second treasure: a newly vacated bird's egg with a couple of pine needles sticking to the still-wet albumen.



It wasn't much bigger than a penny. A hummingbird egg? I'm not sure.


A pencil and an egg, found in the woods: I count that a successful day.

39 comments:

  1. That is a supremely successful day.

    Oh. I'm so glad you wrote something about your time in Afghanistan. I hope you'll write more.

    As for the pencil, well, yeah. Ticonderoga is one of my favorites. I like #1 pencils even though you have to sharpen them all the time. They are soft and so black. I love pencils!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I realized when I found the pencil that I go back to that moment, so long ago, whenever I find a single, good pencil. One of the best-and most personal- images from my entire life, that little girl.
      The pencil I found in the woods was sharpened with a knife.
      The egg was sublime.

      Delete
  2. i loved your memory of the pencil gift. so much we take for granted, here...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. twg, I learned that lesson in a profound and lasting way those 2 years in Afghanistan.

      Delete
  3. Wow, the gift of the pencil really puts things in perspective. Beautiful story. They say a hummingbird egg is the size of a pea, so not sure what type of bird, but a great find nonetheless. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A pea! Wow! This is bigger than that, but I googled hummingbird eggs and they look just like this...only apparently much tinier. When I think about it though, a hummingbird would have trouble with a penny-sized egg; of course they're smaller. :-)

      Delete
  4. Can you even imagine for a moment having to live without a pencil? I always have a pen or pencil in or near my hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't imagine being without a pencil! It is so...basic?

      Delete
  5. It's amazing what we take for granted. Just reading the Little House on the Prairie series. The girls were thrilled to get their own tun cups for Christmas. I think they got a piece of candy too. Pa has just left on a 200 mile walk in bad shoes to try to find work after grasshoppers ruined their crop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AC I remember those passages where they celebrate Christmas! Some of my favorite things to read, ever.

      Delete
  6. You walk today yielded treasures and a good reminder to us all - appreciate the small blessings.

    ReplyDelete
  7. You gave her the gift of expression: wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what it is, isn't it? A pencil is the gift of expression. What a remarkable insight, Laoch. Thank you.

      Delete
  8. What treasures for those who look!

    ReplyDelete
  9. i love that story, and can understand why it remains so vividly in your mind... and ani would tell you that the pencil you found is not JUST a pencil, it's her FAVORITE pencil, the DIXON TICONDEROGA!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ani has good taste in pencils! I've read that Blackwing pencils are the best in the world, but it's hard to beat a Dixon Ticonderoga, right? And as Reya says, the #1 is divine, especially for drawing and crosswords.

      Delete
  10. It's a recently sharpened pencil, too - there's a story there. The size comparison between egg and pencil is nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there has to be a story. It was whittled sharp with a knife...and now it is mine.

      Delete
  11. The small things - they become the big ones so artfully.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pauline, don't they though? Even common small things, by virtue of their size, are special.

      Delete
  12. Kerry, why do I feel this unexpected urge to cry a little after reading this post and viewing those delicate, almost heavenly pictures? This was so quietly beautiful. If I were a bird, it'd be a gentle gust under my wings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Suze, for your poignant comment. I always value what you write.

      Delete
  13. As wonderful as your finds were, the memories they evoke are the best treasures of all. Lovely post, Kerry.

    Sparrow, maybe?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Hilary; I think that's probably right.

      Sparrow? Maybe so! I wish I knew.

      Delete
  14. Your blogpost is a beautiful find, too. Just the fact that that pencil triggered all these memories off and you shared them with us has made my Saturday. Many thanks. I really appreciated that.

    Greetings from London.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cuban, thank you for your kind words this morning: it has started my day off so nicely.

      Delete
  15. quite successful. the small girl's joy over a pencil should humble us all. the bird egg might be a wren or a sparrow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, maybe a sparrow, or some other small bird. I wonder.

      Delete
  16. What a wonderful story. Gave me happy shivers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are the best kind of shivers, aren't they?

      Delete
  17. Treasures indeed.
    How easy it is to make someone truly happy. As you demonstrated with your finds too.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Check out blogger number seven's blog. strange. I've been hacked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Disregard, Kerry, misunderstanding.

      Delete
  19. Albumen!! What a great word, Kerry!

    I remember when i built a garden in London several years ago. Just after it was finished, my client told me that a little girl on her way to school every morning would run ahead of her mother and sit on the wall, looking into the garden. It happened for several weeks. Never have i been given a better feeling of having made a difference to a place. Every time i finish a garden, i honestly think of that story and hope that the next one gives as much joy, even if in the same subtle way.

    To see beauty in the things we all miss is such a gift, Kerry. I am always so grateful at what you teach me through these posts. Long may it continue

    Saul x

    ReplyDelete

Talk to me.