On a beach in Monterey Bay, California, the tide washes in thousands of broken pieces of stone. Among these piles of smoothed rocks, it's common to find ones that look like this ...
Like discarded beads of some primordial necklace, each stone is pocked with a number of smoothly-drilled holes. Inside, there are spiral scratches like a rifle-barrel. Some holes can be as large as your finger, and taper slightly from one side of the rock to the other. It's hard to imagine making a mark like that without power tools or, at the very least, an overabundance of patience. And the beach is covered with them.
On the Aquarium tour, I learned about these unintentional rustic jewelers of the ocean. Piddock clams latch onto rocks while they are just plankton – tiny delicate larvae without any rock-boring equipment. As they grow, they calcify a shell around themselves. They use ridges on the shell, twisting back and forth, to painstakingly grind a hole into the rock. This process may take several years of the mollusk's eight-year lifespan.
Once they've completed this task, they create a roof over themselves to settle into their new home.
How many times have we, when faced with an unyielding problem, simply given up? For the clam, the answer is to grow into a solution. It need only hang on and keep growing until the obstacle is no more than a memory and a pile of freshly milled sand.
These little guys are inspiring, in a humble sort of way. I've put this empty home on my desk, as a visual reminder for when I think life is too hard. It's not so bad, the clams seem to say. Think of your rocky obstacles as the future beaches of the world, worn away one day – one grain – at a time.