Discover more from Stories Along The Way from Kris Camealy
On Regret, Good Gifts, And Being Misunderstood
(Apparently, I touched a nerve with this one. Let's talk about it some more.)
Last night I went to pick my daughter up from Youth Group and a friend I bumped into in the parking lot said, “Oh hey! I love your Emu egg! That COLOR!!”1 I so appreciated her enthusiasm because it made me feel normal for having purchased an Emu egg.
Hang on, let me back up.
Stories Along The Way from Kris Camealy is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a vintage market with my youngest. I called it an “Artist Date” (a la Julia Cameron’s advice in her book, The Artist’s Way.) Having attended this same market months earlier, I was looking for a specific antique dealer in the center of the big barn. It was on my third lap perusing the various curiosities that I caught sight of the Emu egg. It’s rich teal color made me gasp out loud.
Here, see what I mean—
I held the egg in my hands and marveled at the texture of its thick shell. The tiny speckles, a galaxy of stars in a deep, blue-green sky. I knew I needed to bring this egg home with me, but standing there with the egg in my hands, I listened to the rain beat down hard on the barn roof. I remembered the pressing crowds and the winding walk through muddy gravel back to the car. My hands already full with bags, I imagined no safe way to transport this marvel beyond the shop door. I saw it broken in my hands before I’d ever make it to my car. Besides the practical problem of transporting something so precious, what would I DO with it if I did manage to get it home safely? Where would I keep it? What purpose would it serve? In my head I could hear others asking the same thing. You bought an Emu egg?—what for?
Of course these are the wrong questions, and I knew it even as I asked them of myself. These are consumer questions. These are questions asked of products not marvels of nature.
I left the egg on its brass stand in the center of the market and continued through the rain visiting various other vendors.
But that night I could not stop thinking about the egg. I chided myself for not taking advantage of the opportunity—a bird—er—egg— in the hand…or something like that. My daughter encouraged me to go back for it the next day but again I talked myself out of the two-hour round-trip to see if it was still there.
Regret pooled in my heart. I caught myself shaking my head at myself, wondering how practicality had won the argument against wonder and awe when I am plenty known for making impractical but delightful decisions on the daily.
I shared about my foolishness online and asked if others had made a similar mistake. I wanted to know I wasn’t the only one who had walked away from something and lived to rue the day. It turned out, some of you have left things on the table that you wish you hadn’t—dreams, hopes, curiosities—and I want to tell you that it’s possible that it’s not actually too late. It might be—but also, it might not be.
A few days after the market, I went on eBay and discovered that there is a niche market for lovers of Emu eggs. (Who knew?!) I clicked through the pictures and found one that seemed reasonable and purchased it with only a tiny remaining fragment of that previous hesitation. Again I worried if it would make the trip in one piece. I decided if it didn’t, I’d have a kintsugi project on my hands and there are worse things than that. I prayed it would arrive intact.
Days later, my Emu egg arrived on my porch safe and sound in a nest of thick bubble wrap.
While this isn’t the same Emu egg from the vintage market, this one holds a little more meaning now because every time I look at it I remember that I first talked myself out of it before I let myself experience its wonder. When I look at this egg, I see one more small victory over my tendency towards people pleasing. This egg is a small memento of learning to live freer than I have in the past—it’s an Ebeneezer2 of learning to spread the weird and wild wings God has given me, specifically. It’s a personal symbol of embracing the way I am made, and the way I see the world.
Beauty’s “purpose” is not quantifiable
Plenty of people argue that beauty has no quantifiable purpose and I suppose by their own terms, they are right—except that as soon as you attempt to measure beauty in metrics intended for common goods, the conversation regarding the value of beholding and owning art is dead before it ever gets off the ground. In conversations such as these, we might be sharing our use of the word, value, but we fundamentally disagree on the meaning of the word.
We live in a world full of beautiful “useless” things, and whether we realize it or not, we are the better for it. And that’s because beauty is not in fact, useless. Beauty offers us a fragment of a mirror through which we can see a glimpse of God’s back as He pass us here and there on this, His precious planet. In the beauty of a vibrant Emu egg, or the red belly of a bluebird, or in the colorful rings in my daughter’s marble-green eyes, we get to see the tiniest glimpse of a God who loves color and form and feather for reason’s we can only begin to imagine. Encounters with beauty transform us even without our knowing, and often without our consent. And this is a gratuitous gift—this being altered by beauty.
Sometimes, we’re tempted to talk ourselves out of receiving this gift. Sometimes the gift feels like it doesn’t make sense and so we let fear tie our hands, close our fists, or harden our hearts.
Sometimes we are fools.
I live with people who don’t see the purpose in owning such a thing as an Emu egg. I share space with people who bend hard towards the practical and declare that function-over-form is the way to live. We weight function and beauty differently according to our value systems. We love each other wildly, but we don’t always understand each other. To these people I imagine I am a frustrating enigma of silliness and frivolity. I love practicality and usefulness in good measure, but I crave beauty and will purchase “useless” things that feed my soul.
As I recover from my people-pleasing ways, I continue to learn that everyone doesn’t need to “get” what brings me delight and makes my jaw slack with awe. They don’t need to understand, or even like it. Their confusion, inability to share my wonder, or opinions about what lights me up does not diminish the joy I experience when I behold the wonder of my Emu egg, chase that crazy dream, or make that piece of art that might or might not end up anywhere where it can be seen by others.
Everyone won’t “get” your dream either. Everyone won’t see the value in the things you value. Beauty looks different through different eyes.
Buy the Emu egg3, or don’t.
Just don’t let someone else’s opinion on it be the reason you talk yourself out of something.
Behold the beauty. Let wonder win.
It’s always fun/weird when your online life and your regular life collide in dark parking lots. Or your local Starbucks. Or Church lobby. These run-in’s are opportunity to be a truly integrated person. I actually do love this because it helps keep a person honest. There are two kinds of people on social media—the one’s who show up the same in real life, and the ones whose squares and online profiles are so curated that you don’t even recognize them when you encounter them out in the wide world. Choose to be the first.
“a commemoration of divine assistance” (See Merriam Webster Online)
Someone commented on my Emu egg post with the hashtag #buytheemuegg and from now into forever, I shall use this hashtag to reference any decision that might seem frivolous, but clearly isn’t. (Thanks, Heather!)