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« Riding a bike: Science or Natural Instinct? | Main | The New Normal »

In Search of Diamonds

In 1969 in my native England, I had just moved from a large industrial city to the relative peace and tranquility of rural Worcestershire. The move was prompted by a desire to improve the quality of life for my family that included my wife and two small children. This unspoiled West Country area was mainly agricultural and there was very little industry, but I found work with a farmer maintaining and repairing his farm equipment.

Part of the farm included an old abandoned WWII Airfield. The runways were still in place although grass and weeds now grew in the cracks between the concrete. Also in place were the many buildings used during the war. Built with brick with corrugated asbestos roofs, these buildings once served as workshops, offices, and living quarters. One of the buildings was now my repair shop, while others served as parking garages for the tractors and other farm equipment. Some were used for storage but many were empty and lay derelict.

When I first arrived I explored throughout a labyrinth of empty rooms and passageways. Wild blackberry bushes grew around the outside in some cases as high as the buildings. Shutting out light, branches reached in through broken glass in rusting cast-iron window frames, giving this place an eerie atmosphere. I wandered into one room and a startled rat, which in turn startled me as it ran across the floor and leapt through an open window. It was hard to imagine this place as it once was, a hotbed of activity during the war some twenty-five or more years before.

One warm and sunny spring morning I was outside when something caught my eye. Sunlight reflected on something and it sparkled brightly in the brickwork that formed the corner of an empty building. The walls of the buildings were only a single brick wide and a thin layer of cement had been applied to the outside to keep out moisture. With the years of neglect and weathering most of this cement had fallen from the walls. The object reflecting light was lodged in a crack between a remaining piece of cement and the brickwork.

I was intrigued enough to investigate further but a blackberry bush prevented me from getting any closer than eight feet away. I found a heavy wooden plank and laid it across the brambles. Stepping carefully, bouncing on the plank to crush the thorny branches, I reached the corner and looked directly into the crack in the wall.

I could not believe what I was seeing. I closed my eyes tight then opened them wide again. I peered inside the crack with one eye, closing the other against the bright sunlight. My eye was only inches away and I could see the object was a diamond ring. Gold with three large diamonds in a beautiful ornate setting. I reached to retrieve it but stopped immediately as I sized up the situation. At the slightest touch this heavy piece of cement would fall and the ring would be lost in the brambles.

I walked back along the wooden plank and removed it from the bush. I ran inside the building and hitched a tractor to a heavy-duty brush mower. This piece of equipment would clear this blackberry bush in very short order. It was really a two-man job to attach this mower but my adrenaline pumping provided the strength needed.

As I struggled to attach first the drive shaft then the hydraulic lifting arms, I wondered how the ring had got there. Had it been there since the war? Maybe a thief hid it, hoping to retrieve it later. Someone on a bombing mission, not sure if they would return would not want a stolen ring to be found in their personal effects later. Or maybe a woman whose fiancé had been killed came here after the war and left the ring there in some personal ritual of closure.

I suddenly realized the mower was attached and I was standing daydreaming. I leapt into the tractor seat, started the engine and roared out from the building. I swung around the corner and put the tractor in reverse. I lowered the mower, engaged the drive and backed slowly to the wall.

The mower cut a swath through the bush about five feet wide at one pass. I was careful not to hit the wall for fear of dislodging the piece of cement. I pulled forward, then drove the tractor back inside and ran to get hand tools to finish the job. I found a pair of pruning shears, some heavy leather gloves and a rake. I finished clearing the area around the corner of the building, removed the gloves and prepared to retrieve the ring.

My heart was pounding so fast I had to stop and take some deep breaths. Placing my left hand to catch the ring as it fell, I reached up with my right hand to remove the piece of cement. I barely touched it and the ring disappeared in a flash. It was nothing more than a drop of rainwater suspended between the brick and cement.

I stood there feeling very foolish, nature had played a trick on me and I had fallen for it. There was no mistaking, I did see a fine gold and diamond ring. I saw thee large diamonds in a beautiful setting but it was nothing more than a trick of sunlight on a drop of water.

Over the years since this incident I have come to realize a valuable lesson here. So often in my life I pursued something I perceived to be of great value. Some material thing, or maybe a career or relationship. After a great deal of effort on my part in pursuing these goals, I found they too were illusions. Lke sunlight on a drop of rainwater.


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Reader Comments (5)

Dave, this post is diamonds and gold. Thanks for sharing it. "What fools we mortal be!" Isn't that the quote?

January 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMaynard Hershon

Excellent post, Dave!

January 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLee Kanning

I wonder, if you had hit the building while clearing brush, would you have considered the “diamond ring” lost?

Is it (life) a diamond ring until you try to possess it?

Is life like Schrodinger’s Cat? perhaps it is best this way. I also think life is pretty good.
Just don’t take too much time thinking about if it is, or not. That is a trap.
At least you didn’t get bit by a rattler, so to speak.

January 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

That's an incredible find, Dave. It was for you meant to find it.

February 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAFE

A beautiful post, thanks for sharing!

February 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

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