Beth Lynne Clewley - Miner Claim

The Power of Seven

Standing in the hot sun, squinting from the gold dust rising up all around my small, unsteady frame one would never guess the job I had come to do.

I do not wear heavy soled shoes to protect my feet, but braces to keep them in proper alignment. I have no flashlight to guide my steps, no walking stick to aid my balance, only a walker with two wheels in the front, a basket for collecting pinecones, and a snazzy red horn that glitters in the sun almost as much as the gold dust.

It is 1984. I am a seven years old. Born with Cerebral Palsy, my body hardly seems a sturdy enough vessel to venture deep into a dark mine and chip away tediously at black ore to reach a place few can imagine, but at seven years old it is a place I have seen.

I am what many call a trooper. What I lack in physicality I make up for in spirit and idealism. I may not have a miner's frame but I have a miner's soul. Born not being able to sit, stand, or walk, I learned very young that many a rock must be lifted, the dust sifted, and the earth moved to reap even the smallest rewards. While other children scored soccer goals and ran laps in Phys Ed., climbing out of the bathtub unaided was my Eldorado. Every milestone, no matter how seemingly small was a huge victory marked by frustration, tears, hard work, resolve and faith.

Yes, at seven years old, I am a trooper. Amazingly wise beyond my years, yet full of all of the innocence and hope that lends its strength to children. Our innocence makes us unafraid and undaunted.

Standing before the dark mine, with its boards creaking in the wind and the dank smell emanating from its entrance that is how I feel…unafraid and undaunted…eager to explore and uncover…not just hoping but completely believing I will unearth a treasure of great significance. This is the power of unblemished youth, dreams given free reign, and idealism captured in the hope of Eldorado. This is the power and beauty of seven.

The Frailty of Twenty Six

Standing in the hot sun, squinting from the gold dust rising up all around my less than perfect i.e. flabby body that has been the subject of more than one New Year's Resolution, one would hardly guess the job I had come to do. I wear Doc Martens on my feet in the hopes of arriving as well-equipped for the task ahead as I possibly can.

It is 2005. I am twenty-six years old, soon to be twenty-seven. My body is still a far cry from the vessel it should be to venture deep into a dark mine and chip away at all the baggage I have collected to reach a place I once could imagine with ease… but my body is now the least of my worries.

Having brought new life into this world, worked 12 hour days with a grueling commute to come home, having tackled sight words and show and tell, while concocting something similar to green bean casserole, packing lunches, folding laundry, and still remembering to replace the toilet paper roll in my son's bathroom, I am confident my body though it may be weary, will hold up just fine.

It is my spirit, once my greatest strength that concerns me now. At twenty-six I am not a chipped tea cup or even a badly broken vase, my very being is a mosaic of shattered and mismatched pieces that don't seem to fit or close the cracks no matter where they're placed. There is no glue…no brace or orthodic to repair the heart.

Standing before the dark mine with its boards creaking in the wind and the dank smell emanating from the entrance. I am intimidated. I am afraid It's not so much the monsters that might be lurking waiting to gobble me up from deep beneath that scare me, but rather the thought of emptiness.

All my life, through every trial I held to the promise that there was some meaning, some purpose, some divine reason, and even if it could not be seen by the naked mortal eye, surely there was to be a divine reward, a heavenly blessing if one was patient and dedicated.

Now at twenty-six I struggle desperately to hold on to that hope. Still wise beyond my years, but also older than I ought to be and not so innocent, Eldorado seems a far away fairy tale that I sometimes chastise myself for dreaming of, as surely it's a way to escape reality. My path is so littered with broken dreams that to look back is so painful I feel I must physically hold myself together before my mosaic completely flies apart and disintegrates, and all that is me, was me, the power of seven is completely and forever lost.

I know I am blessed beyond belief with a wonderful man in my life and a beautiful son, and even blessed with beautiful Hawaii; it makes me feel guilty to hurt sometimes.

Just the same sometimes it seems that all I had hoped for, once believed in, my career, my ability to make a difference, the sanctity of marriage and the indestructible bond of devotion, the strength of family, all of this has moved to Eldorado. The place I can no longer see, the place I cannot reach, the place I am now afraid to believe in. For fear there is no reason, no purpose, no divine reward or heavenly blessing…no gold…

The one discovery I dread to make is the discovery of nothing. Standing outside the mine in my heavy combat boots, with my tension-ridden shoulders and heavy heart I wrap my arms around myself to keep in the pieces. I close my eyes tight as tears fall and I pray. Dear God, Please give me something to believe in. Let it all mean something. All the sorrow in my life please let it mean something. As I take the first step this is the burden I carry. This is the frailty of twenty-six. ***

Beth Clewley