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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

The Eighteen Inch World

A family came into my view on a trail along the shores of Lake Whatcom early one morning as I walked my grand puppy. A young father was in the lead followed closely by his wife, and in the rear meandered a young boy on a small bike.

His progress was interrupted by an informative sign, and he stopped and called out to his parents. Their response caught me by surprise. Without a single trace of annoyance or impatience, they turned and walked back to the boy. Reaching the sign, his father began to read what was there, stopping along the way to answer the many questions that poured forth from the boy. This interruption in their walk caused no interruption in the spirit of the day. Gentleness surrounded this family, an unhurried sense of grace, especially towards this little boy.

I suppose my surprise was born of experience, having just visited a national park and witnessed the painful interactions between harried parents and hurried children. Adults seemed so determined to get to the “next thing,” and the children’s natural curiosity and amazement were slaughtered in the wake of these artificially created “must do” lists.

In the refreshing breeze of this gentler family encounter at Lake Whatcom, I began the slight ascent to the car through a forested section of the trail, a quiet almost mystical place of thick ferns and old growth.

A man passed me, and in his wake a little girl of about three was bent over something on the trail.

“No stopping!” he called after her gruffly.

Something in me snapped. He would not have his way with her today. I bent over next to her. “What do you have there?”

“A rock,” she said as she rose up smiling, cradling it as though it were a diamond. Her clear, limitless blue eyes looked up at me without guile as she shared her three-year-old insights about the rock treasure.

We walked together towards her dad, and then I remarked about her beautiful necklace laden with charms. She began to caress each one and tell me what it was until she came to a small round one encrusted with “diamonds”.

“It’s a…. it’s a….” Looking perplexed she looked up at me for help…

“Well, it’s very sparkly…and very round…”

“It’s a…. it’s a….” A panicked look crossed her face.

Just then, her dad interceded. “It’s the moon. The moon.” The world took a breath and relaxed. They both walked off, and it felt like the air had changed between them.

Finishing my walk, my thoughts were still held captive by the image of that little girl. All of us, I think, had come to take in some kind of view this day.

The little boy on the bike was viewing the world from his particular place… his three foot height. His parents climbed down from their perspective to help him interpret and appreciate his three foot view.

The little girl whose neck was adorned with a sparkly moon was viewing an eighteen inch world as she bent over the path. And the only person who could stand with her in amazement admonished her instead to “stop looking.”

Devoid of any insight, the day left me with a profound sadness. I suppose if there was any lesson in this day, it was simply this:

All my life, I have been that little girl, caught up in my eighteen inch world…

being admonished to stop looking,

and struggling to find words to describe the moon.

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