Chapter 10: Acceptance
Over the last two years, Pearl came to know one thing conclusively: her walking stick was indeed magic. If anyone read Pearl’s journal, they would assume some stories were fiction. After all, no one would believe a walking stick taken from the roots of an enormous tree would hold magical powers. And no one would believe this walking stick would have saved Pearl’s life numerous times. Regardless, these stories were written by Pearl in her journal, and they did actually happen.
The first time Pearl knew the stick was magic was, of course, at the campsite in the hidden patch where the enormous tree lives. The tree itself is magic, and the roots are its power source. Although many of the colors Pearl painted on the stick had quietly faded into lighter shades, the engraving of Pearl’s name is just as a pronounced as if it were freshly cut. The letters renew themselves from the inside out, and time cannot deter their powerful presence.
Since that first time at the campsite, no new messages have appeared on the walking stick. However, its powers have been revealed in ways that are difficult for a busy mind to believe. You have to slow down and pay attention to recognize the stick’s influence. Pearl noticed it first on an outing around the block. She was tired but wanted some fresh air to clear her head. Although Pearl had become quite proficient using the walking stick, her tiredness had made her lazy, and she was dragging in thought as she attempted to cross a driveway. Pearl did not hear the black truck backing up, and the driver of the truck did not see Pearl walking across. Within a second the walking stick lurched forward with such a degree of force that Pearl was hurled into the air and landed on a grassy patch on the other side of the driveway. Once the driver saw Pearl, he dashed out of his truck to make sure she was okay. “I am so sorry. I did not see you!” the driver exclaimed. “I am so glad you got out of the way in time!”
Pearl was extremely startled. “Who pushed me?” she said trying to wipe the dewy grass off her clothing.
“Pushed you?” the man replied. “No one is around. I guess someone is watching out for you.”
Pearl felt her walking stick. It was pulsing rapidly in unison with the beat of her heart. She knew then that the stick had saved her life. That was only the first time.
No telling how many times the walking stick actually intervened and changed Pearl’s course, but she was fully aware of several more incidents. One, in particular, happened about eighteen months ago. Pearl was angry with herself for shutting her mom and grandma out of her life. She was also upset with her slow progress in learning Braille. Although she was trying hard, she seemed to be hitting a mental roadblock. Tired of feeling like a volcano about to erupt, she just wanted peace to return to her. Like a boomerang, Pearl kept tossing prayers up to God, but they seemed to come back to her unanswered. Pearl thought even God had grown tired of her sour attitude.
At this point, Pearl had very little central vision left. She decided to paint to release some of her frustrations and relax her mind. It was an afternoon of unusual silence. Grandma had gone to Austin to visit an old friend, and her mom and Dr. Holt were shopping for plants and flowers at the local nursery. The paints had not been opened since Pearl painted the walking stick six months prior; they angrily squirted out beyond their dry plug onto the paper plate. “Even my paints are grumpy,” Pearl thought to herself.
As Pearl moistened the tips of her brushes, a knocking sound alarmed her. She was not expecting her mom and Dr. Holt back for several hours, and Grandma was not to return until the next day. The sound was coming from her door. Hesitantly, Pearl turned to face her door. It was still closed. The knocking continued. Once Pearl got close enough, she realized the knocking was not coming from the other side; rather, it was coming from the inside of Pearl’s room. It was coming from the walking stick that Pearl had hung on her doorknob. The red base of the walking stick was banging against the door. When Pearl tried to touch the stick, the banging became louder and more extreme. Like a child trying to find the precise moment to hop into a revolving jump rope, Pearl waited until she knew she could manage the stick with control and strength. Once Pearl grasped the stick, she held onto it with both hands so it would not jump away from her. Pearl felt the engraving of her name raised in thickness at least two inches high. Pearl said aloud, “Pearl,” as she felt each letter standing tall and proud. Once she said her name aloud, the engraving subsided back to its original depth.
Next, the color pink throbbed brightly with such intensity that Pearl could not look at it head-on. “What stick? What do you want from me?” Pearl yelled. “Pink! Yes, pink. I see it. So what?” Pearl was annoyed with the stick and tried to strap it back on the doorknob. But the stick would not free itself from Pearl’s hands. It was forced upon her palms like a magnet. Pearl stood still, paralyzed in both irritation and wonderment. She did not fear the stick. She had never feared it. The stick had become an extension of her inner being, and she trusted it with all her heart. Pearl knew the stick was trying to tell her something.
“Okay, pink. I painted pink to remind me that I am safe. Safe and secure.” As soon as Pearl said these words the color pink on the stick went back to normal. The color blue then began to pulsate. “Okay, I get it now,” Pearl said softly. “Blue. I painted blue to remind me not to live in fear.” Once again, after the words were spoken the color returned to normal. Following blue came yellow. Yellow glared like a burning star. “Yellow,” Pearl said uncomfortably. “Yellow to remind me of the gift of each new day.”
Again, after Pearl spoke the meaning of the color, its appearance returned as it once was. Then the color green began throbbing bright and bold. “Green to remind me to continue to grow mentally and emotionally.” Pearl understood the game, but she still did not want to play.
Red burst forth like a pounding heart. Pearl’s entire arms shook with the movement of red. “Red,” Pearl’s voice quivered. “Red to remind me of the unconditional love that surrounds me and leads me.”
And lastly, black vibrated itself like a bottle of wet ink about to spill. So much in fact, that some of the color splattered on her face as her hands tried to keep the stick steady. “Black!” Pearl exclaimed. “Black to remind me that frustrations are a part of life. They are to be appreciated so the good moments can be recognized.”
With the final color being described, the stick left Pearl’s hands, and Pearl fell to the ground. When Pearl looked for the stick, it was found motionless on her doorknob. The walking stick looked exactly as it had originally except the paint colors were not quite as vivid. Pearl thought she was losing her mind. She guessed her depression had resulted in delusional thinking. Pearl’s arms were tingling from exhaustion, and she had black paint splattered on her skin. Pearl got up and positioned herself in front of her canvas once more. Yet this time she was not looking at a blank canvas. Instead, Pearl was looking at the words she had spoken aloud, from her name to the meaning of each one of the colors. Her words had been transcribed onto the canvas itself using the same color they represented from the stick. The edge of the canvas dripped black ink from the word “recognized.” The remaining words had already dried; and before Pearl could scrub the carpet clean, black had dried too.
As Pearl read the canvas over and over again, the volcano inside her slowly became dormant. She no longer wanted to fight herself or her family. She wanted to accept her reality and move on. The walking stick reminded Pearl of who she was deep inside, beyond the dusty ugliness that had settled in her heart, mind, and soul. Pearl nailed the canvas above the headboard of her bed. And day by day Pearl began to clean off the dust and polish herself from the inside out. A new level of determination originated in Pearl, and with the help of her walking stick, she got out of her self-pity rut.
The walking stick became Pearl’s best friend. She confided in it, and just with a touch the stick knew what mood Pearl was in; if she were scared, or if she were happy. By the summer before her senior year, Pearl comfortably and confidently took her walking stick with her everywhere. It was as necessary as lip gloss to lips and sunscreen to the skin. June was a particularly hot month in Texas, and Pearl often went for early morning strolls in the neighborhood before the sun fully woke up. During these peaceful walks, Pearl could hear cars, birds, and the occasional conversation of a wife telling her husband to have a good day.
But this day was different. For on this day in June, Pearl heard the soft sound of crying while walking down Hickory Street. Instinctively, she decided to walk past the crying and continue. Whoever was upset surely had a companion nearby consoling her, or a good reason to be crying alone. Pearl stiffened her back and tried her best to ignore both the stranger and the sound. By the muffled noise alone, Pearl determined the sound was a girl, probably sitting on the steps of her front porch with her hands over her face.
While Pearl hastily attempted to move beyond the sidewalk that outlined the stranger’s home, the walking stick had another direction in mind. Pearl’s walking stick fussed around like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum. As much as Pearl tried to maintain her balance, the stick made it nearly impossible for Pearl to take a single step forward. Pearl had to get the walking stick under control. Meanwhile, the stranger quieted as she watched Pearl wrestle with the stick. Neither the girl nor Pearl wanted to approach one another. They both believed there was obviously something seriously wrong with the other.
Pearl finally shouted, “Stop it!” With that command, the stick bullied Pearl no more. Pearl regained control and quickly walked in complete embarrassment past the corner of Hickory Street and onto her street Maple Lane.
Once Pearl was beyond the stranger by at least the distance of a house, the stranger started crying again. Pearl felt bad for the girl but was much too rattled to even think about going back. Unbeknownst to Pearl, the walking stick had already made plans to go back later that evening.