"The Shore Beyond"

Story Time

January 10, 2001|By Mary Joslin

* Editor's note: A restless girl longs to visit points faraway.

When Clara was little, she loved most of all to walk down to the lakeside with her father each morning. She watched as he pushed his heavy rowing-boat out into the calm violet water and set off for his day's work.

In the evening, she waited beside the door of their home and looked for his return under a darkening sky. Every night, when he came home, she asked the same question.

"When can I come with you to the shore beyond? I can barely see it from here."

"When you are older," was her father's reply.

Summers came and winters passed. On a bright spring day, Clara at last took her place at the oars and pulled the boat out onto the lake. Delightedly she gazed at the vastness of the open water and watched the flocks of birds wheeling overhead. With every stroke, she was taking the boat closer to the place she so longed to reach.

Every day, Clara helped her father with the rowing. But Clara began to dream.

"I'm going to save the money I earn," she told her friends. Then I shall go on a journey of discovery. I shall take my own boat down the river that flows out of this lake. Who knows what I may find?"

Her friends looked at her admiringly. "You are brave, Clara," they said.

But only one came up to her afterward: Miriam, the basket-weaver's daughter.

"I have an idea," she said. "My father told me that, when he was a boy, he wove a basket and made it into a tiny boat for himself and traveled a little way down the river." All through the winter evenings they worked together. They covered the basket frames with heavy canvas that would keep out even the tiniest drop of water.

"When summer comes, we will go down the river."

The journey was as exciting as they had dreamed.

"What fun we're having!" they cried.

"I can ride the waves better than you," Miriam called to Clara.

So they paddled on the playful waters, day after day, till it seemed they knew every ripple.

One night, as the silver moon sailed among the clouds, Clara sighed. "I long to travel even further," she said. "There must be more to see."

Clara's journey now took her to the sea. Beyond the estuary, the foaming waves picked up her little boat and rolled her in to shore. Time after time she paddled out, and let the waves dance her back.

"If I paddle hard enough, I can go beyond the breakers," she thought to herself as she urged her tiny boat through the foaming sea. But when she had done so, she stopped; the vast ocean seemed too big for her to travel.

"How can I go still further?" she asked an old sailor she met on the harbor.

"Where do you want to go?" was his reply. "There are plenty of sailing-boats here, and, if you want, you can travel on any one of them to the lands beyond."

He told her of the places he had seen, and the wonders to be found.

"But in the end," he said, "it is all the same. Everywhere there are people simply going to and fro, making the best of where they are and getting on with those they meet."

"Everywhere?" asked Clara.

"Everywhere," he replied. After a moment's pause, he went on. "And everywhere, there are people like you and me, who believe that there must be something more to find."

Together they watched the sun setting over the purple sea. From where the waves broke on the sandy shore to the far horizon there stretched a path of gold.

"Look," she said. "That is where I want to go: to where earth touches heaven, ... where, beyond the everyday things, I can find something even greater that will make my spirit dance."

She turned to face the old man. "You have lived a long time," she said. "Can you tell me how to reach that shore beyond?"

He smiled kindly at her. "You may choose to be a traveler, or you may choose to settle down," he said, "for your life itself is the journey. But in all you do, live as you would want to on that distant shore. One day you will reach the place you long for, and you will know in your heart that it has for long years been your home."

"The Shore Beyond" text by Mary Joslin. Illustrations by Alison Jay. Copyright (c) 2000 by Good Books (www.goodbks.com). All rights reserved.

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