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This past weekend, we spent a night at a tiny, easy-to-miss inn right on the harbor of Depoe Bay. And in this eleven-room oasis, in our quant and cozy room, in the top middle drawer of the writer’s desk sat a well-used guest book dating back to 2008.
I was immediately entranced with the 4 x4 square, paisley-covered notebook with its simple lined pages—the type you might find at the local dollar store, or at the end of a Target aisle where the clearance items are located. Despite its commonplace appearance on the outside, it was the writing inside that mattered—that made a lasting impression on me.
What inclined past guests to contribute their thoughts and feelings to a sea of other strangers’ writings, to a book they would likely never see again?
Did they feel expected to do so? Were they so moved by the place, they felt they had to share? Was it a last minute thought as they packed to leave on their next destination? Or was it the idea they were contributing to something greater? Something to be read by people in the future?
I found myself not thumbing half-heartedly through the pages, but rather reading each page with purpose— determination to find something exceptional. A hidden gem in a pile of rocks. A silk scarf amongst a drawer of cotton ones.
As I flipped through the pages, I admired the different handwritings, some scrawled largely across the page, others concise and steady with even spaces. I noticed the different signatures—some full names, some mysterious initials, some with no closure at all. I recognized locations from Idaho, Canada, California—even Michigan and Colorado.
Who were these people that stayed here before me? Were they young couples like my husband and myself, celebrating anniversaries? Were they well-traveled adventurers just passing through? Maybe some were families, taking a yearly vacation. Or artists and writers, finding inspiration in the ocean and slow-paced life at the beach.
I may not have found a specific special entry, written by someone famous or full of beautiful extraordinary thoughts. But I realized something else.
So much can be discovered from a guest book hidden in a desk. So much curiosity and wonder can be provoked. So many stories can be imagined, so many insights into ordinary lives can play out in a few short entries.
And that’s the gem.
All the entries as a whole make it the treasure it truly is.