This post is part of the Secret Messages Project. Every day for thirty days, I’ll leave my words in places where they might be found — or might never be found at all. I hope you’ll join me.
I don’t know how I came up with the idea; I just know that for me, it worked.
I’d been writing one message a day for thirty days, leaving my words in out-of-the-way places, and sometimes in plain sight. For my last day, though, I wanted not just one secret message, but many.
I wanted to fill my city — my soft-shouldered blue little valley — with kind words.
So I began with thirty smooth stones, and I inked on all the things I wanted for this place.
I want hope.
I want mystery.
I want wonder.
I want mercy.
I want forgiveness, too, for ourselves and for others — a chance to begin again:
I want all this and more, and I’m learning that I don’t need to be a poet or a prophet to speak it. I just need to be myself, saying as sincerely as I can what I believe must be said.
If I could do that, it would be enough.
I carried the stones in my coat pocket for days. The load was heavy, but each time I gave a message away I felt lighter.
I left Peace on the railing of the Martin Luther King Jr. bridge:
I left Peace by a park bench downtown, where a homeless man sometimes lingers:
I left a stone in a gorgeous tangle of tree branches on the floodplain:
I left stones underwater:
And stones by railroad yards:
I even left a special stone wedged on a hook in a Wal-Mart bathroom stall:
And I hoped these words would do my city good.
The thing is, though, these messages weren’t just for my city. They were also for me. Because in any other winter, I’d have been holed up at home in the quiet, longing for spring, seeing nothing but gray.
But this winter, I was out in the rain and the snow, breathing air so clear it sometimes hurt… It hurt, but also, it was beautiful. In fact, the more messages I left, the more beauty I saw…
I hid this little bit of Mystery beneath the torn bark of a tree, and suddenly I realized that I wasn’t making Mystery — I was finding it:
I took a wrong turn and ended on a dead-end street, where a haphazard pile of junk blocked the way into the woods:
But there’s no such thing as a wrong turn — not really — and when I took a closer look at the rain beading the edge of this tire, it turns out I found Mystery there, too:
I went searching for places to hide pebbles, and I found paths tiger-striped with flashes of afternoon sun:
I found a canoe launch so quietly beautiful, it made my heart kick in my chest:
(The stone I left there, with the river lapping its edges, felt just right…)
I found beauty in this graffiti downtown:
And beauty in a set of railroad tracks that ran into nothing — they tumbled off the edge of a little ravine and began again on the other side, spiked with tall golden weeds, and my soul sensed something truthful in that:
I left a stone on top of Mill Mountain and saw my city glowing as if from within — sunstruck silver, flooding all the valley’s soft little furrows:
I saw that and I was breathless, so I put that hope into words:
Oh, Star City, I hope you feel breathless today.
I hope you feel breathless tomorrow.
I hope you feel breathless the day after that.
And I hope, in some small way, I gave back a little of the breathlessness you’ve given to me, in these past thirty days.
I’m seeing beauty everywhere I look today, and it’s been my pleasure to share it with you…