Browsing the trinkets in a small antique shop in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, I came across a large, porcelain egg encased in a glass curio. meticulously painted on the egg was a forest with a winding, blue stream. As I marveled at the artistry, the antiquary opened the curio and brought the egg out for me to see. When he sat the egg on the showcase, I caught a glimpse of the price tag and knew that looking at the egg was as close as I would ever get to owning it.
There was a gilded seam around the egg’s middle. Upon cracking it open, I found another egg nestled inside. This egg was adorned with the same forest and stream, but a carpet of bluebells had blossomed. This egg had a seam around its middle, as well. I pulled it apart and found a third egg. By the time I reached the fourth egg, winter had arrived in the forest and cast a thick blanket of snow across the woods. I was surprised that the fourth egg had a seam. With the four seasons already exhausted, what could possibly be on a fifth egg. I cracked open the fourth egg to find an egg no larger than a robin’s egg. It was creamy white and glazed to a wet shine. Absent was the gilded band and intricate landscape that graced the other four. As the gentleman talked about the origins of the set and how he had acquired it, I rubbed the tiny egg between my fingers and resisted the urge to run its smooth, cool surface across my lips. I reassembled the eggs, nesting one inside the other, like a Russian Matroyshka doll, until the full set was put together again.
What I didn’t know is that when I left the shop that day, I had carried the egg out with me. It had leapt into my brain like a stowaway where it hunkered down as a memory until the day I would sit down to reflect upon the cracking open of my own soul. As a chick might turn to regard the shell that once held it, I, too, was compelled to look back and find meaning in the beautiful, cracked-open thing I was leaving behind.
I have grown and evolved my way up and out into each new experience, egg by egg and season by season. I cracked through the outermost shell to find a gentle curve of light. When I reached out to touch it, I realized that it was my own cheek I was caressing, that all along it has been my own grace that has given me buoyancy, my own spirit that has guided me. This knowledge is the gift that I get to walk away with.
What does it mean to be on the outside? I think the outside is simply the next inside, the next set of experiences, except in this set of experiences, there is no race I must run, no holy war I must fight, no god I must please, no adversary I must resist, no ultimate truth I must seek. All of the characters and stage props from my previous experiences are gone and a fresh, new stage has been set. What is the new stage? What are the costumes of my new experience? They are whatever I decide, for I am the creator of it all.