Once upon a time, in a country by the sea, lived a young Princess. Her parents were, of course, the King and Queen. Together they lived in a castle perched on a cliff that overlooked a long coast line of golden sands and rolling, shimmering waves. Their castle was not grand in architecture or design, and was not a mighty fortress; their country was modest in wealth and, in the Princess’ life, a peaceful place. Here, this humble castle by the sea, was the young Princess’ home.
And the coast was her school. On calm mornings, when the sea playfully lapped in the shallows and the wind breathed soft, the Queen and the Princess would slip out of the Castle silently and walk down to the sand together. Once on the beach, the ritual was always the same. They would sit on a flat stone wrapped in thick blankets until the sun rose, just listening to the waves and the wind; then, as the sun showed its face and its warmth melted away the need for blankets, the Queen would take the young Princess’ hand and walk where the foam and the sand swirled together. Wordlessly, mother and daughter would select from the tide shells, corals, and peculiar stones. When their hands grew full of little trinkets, they would sit again, and show each other the treasures they found.
“Look at this one, Mother…see how it sparkles in the sun?”
Shell or stone or coral; every day the two had such a morning outing. The Queen always taught her daughter to cherish the smallest of things, just as the Queen cherished the small, young Princess. F or the Queen knew that if the Princess would love even the smallest of things, she would always be cared for and live happily, even happily ever after.
In the years that passed, the Princess cherished the little treasures her mother had given her as a child. She kept them in a small silver box next to her bed, and when life seemed uncertain, she would open the chest that, inside, held the love of her mother. She became the Queen when her mother passed, and although she thought it very silly, sometimes she would catch herself speaking to the shells, stones, and coral. She would tell them about her life. Some of the things she told them, I can still remember…
She said many things, and I gave what I could. One day, in her old age, she reflected, “I have seen what there is to see, little shells. I have done what needed to be done. I have loved deeply. I have done the best I can. And, just as Mother taught me, I have cherished even the smallest things. With that being said, I have been thinking a very peculiar thought recently: that the smallest things are the most important things, and when the smallest things are loved, they become the best things.
There was nothing more I could give, except a message in a bottle.
You have heard the waves inside seashells all your life. Did you ever think the waves heard you?
All the sorrows and delights you gave me, I turned into shells just for you.
How glad I am, that you turned them into life.
When she returned to the castle, the Princess tucked the little seaweed note away in silver box on her nightstand. And from then on, the Princess lived as she always had: happily. Even happily ever after.
~ Elliott Sharps, Fresno, California