A winter storm in Penobscot Bay had carried the tree lizard far up the beach and left him there. When the weather calmed, he found himself near stairs and beside a very large rock, the largest in sight. “Good,” he thought, “he will know.”
“Excuse me,” Lizard said, “ Do those stairs lead somewhere? To a castle perhaps?”
The rock frowned. “Castle? No castles around here.” The rock said no more. He didn’t care for company, though he was feeling fortunate. If the lizard had been pushed a few yards closer, his head would be resting on the rock’s shoulder.
“I wonder, then,” Lizard said after a few moments, “What my purpose is. Who am I here to guard?”
There was a murmur around his feet that grew into snickering, as the small stones chattered to each other.
“Hush! All of you!” boomed the rock. “What’s this fuss about?”
There was more murmuring. “He doesn’t know what he’s here for!” one finally said aloud.
“And you do?” asked the rock, his voice still loud with irritation.
“Yes, we do,” the bold bit of granite said. “We’re here because God put us here.”
“Hmmph!” was all the rock had to say to that.
“Evidently,” the lizard began, looking down at the stones, “You don’t know the difference between cause and purpose. I know how I got here; the sea carried me. My question is, what am I to do now that I am here?” The stones made no response; the discussion was over their heads.
“I had wished for a castle to guard,” the lizard said. “I guess that’s not to be.”
The rock knew it was his turn to speak, but he saw no point in developing acquaintance with one who would only be carried away again: if not next winter, in another winter to come. This intrusion on his beach would be easier to endure, he felt, if conversation was discouraged. He turned his attention to the water.
At night the lizard bends his branch-forelegs down and rests. When the high tide comes in, he laps the water. He was carried by it so long it tastes comforting, like home. All day he stands, observing sea, sky and the rock-strewn beach, alert for whatever he was put there to do.
The possibility that he is there to inspire a story does not occur to him.
The moral: If you long to be useful, don’t limit your options.