Lake Superior has long been one of my sacred places. Once, while on pilgrimage to its southern shore on the summer solstice, I was set upon a humble quest that resulted in my receiving a sacred message.
That summer solstice I had paddled my wooden canoe out onto that enormous body of water to observe the sunrise. In the still morning air, the lake notorious for its tempestuous nature, lay quiescent. As placid as it was, once engulfed by the lake’s shear immensity and with its latent power crouching beneath me, it was unnerving to be upon its open reaches in nothing but an open canoe. I felt as though I were a passenger on a frail bark, indeed.
The sunrise was glorious and all that I had hoped for. But with the rising of the sun, the winds also rose, quickly. It became a race to the shore, paddling for my life, riding higher and higher waves, that became breakers as they reached the shore and tossed me onto the beach. Once grounded I frantically hopped out as the waves broke over me and poured into canoe. I grabbed the canoe and tugged as with all my strength to pull it out of the pounding waves. I stood panting for some time, soaked to the skin, catching my breath from both the physical and the emotional trial I had just endured. But all was well.
Later that day I was strolling aimlessly along a sandy beach, enjoying the sounds and feel and smells of this inland sea – the rhythm of the gentle waves as they washed ashore, the sometimes moist and sometimes dry sand between my toes, the cries of gulls, the fresh breeze tinged with the smell of the lake.
Eventually I came upon a small cove where the shore was strewn with rocks and pebbles. Glistening through clear water were many stones composed of quartz. Some were ice-white, others had an amber hue, a few were deep reds and purples. Their translucence illuminated by the sunshine, they nearly glowed through the sparkling cresting waves.
For long moments I stood gazing upon these fully-precious stones, soaking up the experience – the sights, the sounds, the sun on my body, the smells. But eventually I found myself picking up the stones that caught my eye. Not being content to take one or two, my pockets were soon bulging with rocks. I knew that once the stones were out of the water and the surfaces dry, they would appear drab and nearly colorless. But, I thought, I will keep them in water at home.
As I picked more and more from their resting places, a feeling crept over me that I should not remove them, that they should remain here in their own environment.
On several occasions at that time this same message had been coming to me. In the past instances I had always honored the message and left the object in question in its place. This time, however, enchanted as I was by the refulgent stones, and driven by a compulsive possessiveness, I chose to ignore this leading.
Once back home, I placed the stones into jars filled with water, something I had seen my on grandmother Ruth’s windowsill as a young boy, rocks that she and her sister Alethia had gathered. It felt like I’d be participating in a family tradition, and I anticipated having the sun shine upon them and the memory of the my enchantment captured for me to enjoy.
As I ran tap water into the jar, the colors of the stones returned, but not so vibrant, mere shadows of what they had been in the great lake. But I placed the jar upon the windowsill, not quite pleased with my treasure. And immediately I was crestfallen. The magical stones that had clinked against each other in the rolling clear water of the great lake, were now confined, captive in chlorinated prison. Contemplating my miscreation, the feeling arose in me that I needed to return them to their rightful place in the great lake. As the weeks passed, I derived little pleasure from this jar of rocks stashed upon my windowsill. The feeling kept gnawing at me that I needed to return them.
This message was confirmed for me when I heard a spiritual speaker who concluded his talk on compassion and gratitude with the remarks that “We are like shining pebbles on the shore, being polished by the waves.” Upon hearing these words, I knew for a certainty that I would make another trek up to Lake Superior to return the stones.
A few weeks past before I could work the trip into my schedule, and it seemed like a large investment of time just to return some stones to a lake, but once on the road a great sense of relief washed over me, and a bit of unanticipated anticipation began to bubble up within me.
I reached the lake, strode down the shore with purposeful steps, found the cove once more, and gently strew the stones back into the water.
Immediately the water engulfed them, the sunlight struck them, and their colors blossomed. The lapping waves clinked them together with all of their brothers and sisters who had been awaiting their return. The lake had its way with them, tossing some higher onto shore, pulling some down deeper into itself.
I looked out over the waters of the great lake and a great peace washed over me. Within my chest, my heart was bathed in a deep sense of compassion. I felt a wonderful sense of wholeness that I had rarely experienced in my life.
When my gaze returned to the stones at my feet, I thought again about how, when dry, rocks and pebbles are dull and gray. But when wet, bathed in waves or rain, they show their true colors. Quartz especially, as they become translucent, revealing to us their inner beauty. The water fills in all the fine scratches on the surface of the rock, which allows the sunlight to fully enter. Thus, the water and the sun work their magic.
Then a thought struck me, something that the stones may signify about ourselves. So here is the message that I received at the conclusion of my humble quest…
Just as the rocks appear dull and gray form their many scratches, the character of each person appears flawed and imperfect. Our many emotional wounds distort our actions, cloud who we really are. But when we are bathed in love our scars are filled in, and the door is opened. As we become transparent to ourselves and the world, our true character emerges. Bathed in this oceanic feeling, our inner being becomes receptive to the influence, to the in-flow, to the inspiration, of Spirit, revealing the refulgent souls that we are. Immersed in love, we open to the illumination of Spirit, to enlightenment.
Water and Sunlight are required to produce refulgent stones. Emotion and Mind, Love and Pure Consciousness are required to produce the radiance of an enlightened being.