My grandmother used to tell me that she was as old as dirt.
I’d laugh at her and ask, ‘what was the world like without dirt?’
And she’d laugh at me and say:
‘It was full of boulders. See, like those there on the hillsides. But there were only boulders and us old people. No plants. No birds. Nothing but big stones.
‘We were giants then, too. Bigger than dinosaurs.’
And I’d laugh.
‘How did the trees grow? And how come your so small now?’
‘Well we had to make the dirt,’ she’d say. And she sigh and look out the car window — this was a road story — and she’d be different for a moment.
‘We had to work really hard to make dirt. We had to crush the boulders, one at a time. There were no trees so we couldn’t make fires. Or handles for hammers. We only had our giant hands and other stones.
‘And as we crushed the boulders into dirt, we slowly shrank and became normal sized.
‘It’s a good thing too,’ she’d smile again. ‘If I had to make any more dirt, I might be only three feet tall!
And we’d laugh together and she’d tell me about the coming of trees and the birds to land upon them and all the other bright and beautiful things of the world.
Back then, I used to think her story was one of the many myths we told – just another fun and silly story to pass the time. As I grew older, I learned that she had to squeeze her feet into hand-me-down shoes for most of her life. It had a slight deforming effect on her feet, curling her toes unnaturally, even into her sixties.
But there’s more to the story than play and personal connections. There’s a life-long lesson that was imparted into my consciousness — a lesson on hard work, diminishing energy, and finding your balance.
In our story there was never fear. There may have been elements of sadness; but part of accepting the joys of life — birds, trees, laughter, stories — is realizing everything can change.
The challenge, when one feels diminished, is to remember that life among the giants is hard; but the perspective is always looking up.
Fourteen Curves is acrylic and ink on canvas; 18 x 36. The painting has appeared in various venues throughout Southern California and depicts the traffic of thoughts found commuting under a golden sunrise.
K Ryan Henisey is an award winning artist, writer, and teacher. For more of his paintings, illustrated children’s poetry, musings, and more visit http://kryanhenisey.com.